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What better way to gain visibility for your choral organization than to be singing with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center?
That's what choral man-about-town Kent Tritle thought, too, so when the Phil, for whom he serves as Principal Organist, approached him in the spring of 2012 about securing a diverse group of singers for this month's Ives Fourth Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall, he had an idea: "I thought, why not gather representative singers from the choruses that make up the New York Choral Consortium? After all, we're looking for ways to work together to raise awareness of the choral art in the New York Metropolitan area, and what would be more fun than singing great music together?"
The Consortium has been meeting, at various levels of activity, for several years, but only acquired tax-exempt status and the other trappings of an official non-profit in 2011 under the expert tutelage of Tritle and John Daley Goodwin, then Music Director of the New York Choral Society. With the able assistance of several arts administration types, chiefly Lee Ryder of Amuse and Richard Pace of the Oratorio Society of New York, the organization grew to encompass more than fifty choruses from the five boroughs and beyond. Kent now shares the presidency with Deborah Simpkin King, Artistic Director and Founder of Schola Cantorum on Hudson. Each member chorus appoints two representatives to attend business meetings of the Consortium, but events sponsored by the group are often open to a much broader constituency.
For the Ives project, the Consortium first solicited interest from its member organizations, having supplied a full rehearsal schedule up front. Since the NYCC includes groups of many levels and diverse repertoires, music directors were asked to confirm their groups' participation only if they could assure the project four singers of the appropriate caliber and experience to easily handle the Ives. Magically, a balanced ensemble of singers from a dozen choruses appeared over the course of the fall, supplemented by students from the Manhattan School of Music. The chorus size of eighty voices was chosen, as so often happens, by the amount of space available on the Avery Fisher stage beyond the very large Ives orchestra. Kent is serving as chorus master for the performance assisted by Ronnie Oliver, who is on the conducting faculty of the Manhattan School of Music.
"We haven't even met yet," said Tritle, "but I'm excited to see how quickly this group can gel, made up as it is of just a handful of singers from each chorus, so they are not used to singing together." Singers are expected to come to the first rehearsal fully prepared, as there are only two meetings before rehearsals begin with the orchestra. "By the fourth performance, we can expect that they'll sound like they've been a standing chorus for years, and it's my hope that this will open other opportunities for collaboration among New York's many fine choruses."
The Consortium also sponsors educational opportunities for its members, such as the recent "Making Your Arts Organization Really Hum" at the 92nd Street Y, and on June 10 will host the third annual Big Sing, where upwards of 500 singers come together to join in some of the classics of the choral repertoire under an array of New York's finest choral conductors. For more information on the Consortium, visit newyorkchoralconsortium.org, "like" its Facebook page, or subscribe to its monthly choral performance calendar at newyorkchoralconsortium.org/mailinglist.html.
The performances of the Ives Fourth Symphony, with Alan Gilbert conducting the New York Philharmonic, are at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center on Wednesday, April 17; Thursday, April 18; Friday, April 19; and Saturday, April 20. See the listings in the VAN Concert Calendar or visit www.nyphil.org.
Christine Hoffman is the Administrative Director for the New York Youth Symphony and the President of The Dessoff Choirs. This is her third article for Vocal Area Network.