Susan McMane, the highly regarded conductor of girls’ and young women’s choirs, retired on July 31, 2022, and, like many other illustrious directors, chose to end her career with a tour, an honor that ACFEA deeply appreciates.
Susan worked with ACFEA on 11 tours, starting with one in 1998 for the St. Louis University Mastersingers and including 8 (or 12, if you include the accompanying supporters’ tours) for the Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco, the group she founded in 2012. A very exciting tour of Mexico planned for 2020 had to be canceled due to the pandemic.
Her final tour, in June and July, 2022, was entirely in France. They performed in the cathedrals of Aix-en-Provence and Chartres, and in the church of Saint-André-d’Apchon, a small town near Lyon, where the choristers stayed in homes.
Susan wrote, “I really liked this experience! Being in a rural village was such a nice contrast to the cities. The people were so welcoming, and the girls enjoyed the homestays. The food they prepared for us was outstanding. It was nice that we ate together with food prepared by the local chefs and then the girls went to the homes. I think it was a highlight for many of our young women. The concert was more than packed! The audience was so close to us and responsive which was a nice difference from the more austere cathedrals.”
The final concert of the tour, and of Susan’s career, was in La Madeleine in Paris, as part of the Dimanches Musicaux series. All that such a beautiful venue needed to make the concert suitably celebratory was a good audience, and there was no disappointment in that regard.
In Susan’s words, “ACFEA always provides excellent venues with good audiences. That huge audience at La Madeleine was very special. It’s such a large venue that you can’t imagine it full, but it was – even in Covid times! As I stood in the awesome La Madeleine sanctuary with the altarpiece of angels wrapping around my singers, I felt like I was transported to another plane. When we started the second encore “I Love You / What a Wonderful World”, I began to weep and told myself I had to keep it together. This great arrangement keeps repeating the words “I love you” over and over, and it felt so true of my love for the singers and for choral music. As I released the last note, I felt a huge weight lifted from me, as the sound reverberated to the heavens. I wasn’t sad, for I knew I was blessed to have had this opportunity to end my career with these wonderful people in this magnificent place.”
Congratulations, Susan, on your retirement from a career that so lovingly empowered, both musically and socially, so many young women!