New Amsterdam Singers Perform Frank Martin's MASS FOR DOUBLE CHORUS

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New Amsterdam Singers, led by Music Director Clara Longstreth, will launch its 2019-20 season with A Century of A Cappella Gems, anchored by a major work, the Mass for a cappella double chorus by the Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974). The two concerts will be performed Friday, December 13, 2019, at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, December 14, 2019, at 4:00 p.m. at Broadway Presbyterian Church, 114th Street and Broadway.

The all-a cappella program also includes recent works by European composers Arvo Pärt, György Orbán,

Per Gunnar Petersson, Urmas Sisask, ?'riks Ešenvalds, and British composer Colin Mawby. Also on tap are Four Carols on early English texts written in 1952 by American Halsey Stevens.

Frank Martin's Mass for a cappella double chorus was written from 1922-26 but did not receive its first performance until 1963. Martin, born into a Swiss Calvinist family, explained in the 1960s: "I did not want it to be performed...I consider it as being a matter between God and myself." The work, which is becoming increasingly well known, is notable for its juxtaposition of austere, restrained music and rich harmonic writing.

The New Amsterdam Singers first performed the Mass in 1980 in a concert celebrating the centennial of Martin's birth, and again in 2008. Writing in The New York Times in 1980, James Oestreich noted that "Ms. Longstreth's 70-member New Amsterdam Singers, obviously well drilled, gave a fine account of the demanding mass." "To me," says Ms. Longstreth, "Martin's Mass is both lyrical and complex, with rhythm that stirs the senses and harmony that beguiles the ear. The piece has some of the beauty of 16th century a cappella works or the Bach motets, plus extraordinary musical ideas, as in the Agnus Dei. I consider it the single greatest a cappella work of the 20th century."

In 1968 Clara Longstreth became conductor of what was then called the Master Institute Chorus. When the Master Institute dissolved in 1971, the singers regrouped as the New Amsterdam Singers, with Ms. Longstreth at the helm, where she remains today. From 1972-78, NAS was associated with the Bloomingdale House of Music; it became fully independent in 1978 under the management of its own elected Board of Directors. Over these five decades, Ms. Longstreth's tenure and programming instincts with NAS have been acknowledged by audiences and the press alike.

"Clara Longstreth, the longtime music director of the estimable New Amsterdam Singers, has a gift for devising adventurous programs with interesting juxtapositions," wrote Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. Allan Kozinn, writing in the same publication, noted: "When a director takes up the challenge of building a cohesive program around a broad theme, we are reminded that programming can be an art."

Clara Longstreth has also served on the faculty of Rutgers University, where she conducted the Voorhees Choir of Douglass College. A student of conductor G. Wallace Woodworth at Harvard University, Ms. Longstreth trained for her master's degree at The Juilliard School under Richard Westenburg. Further study included work with Amy Kaiser and Semyon Bychkov at the Mannes College of Music, and with Helmuth Rilling at the Oregon Bach Festival. She has guest-conducted the Limón Dance Company in performances with NAS and the Riverside Choir, and with NAS and the Mannes College Orchestra in the folk opera, "Down in the Valley" during a Symphony Space "Wall to Wall Kurt Weill" program. In 2009 she received an Alumnae Recognition Award from Radcliffe College for her founding and longtime direction of New Amsterdam Singers.

New Amsterdam Singers, which celebrated its 50th anniversary during the 2017-18 season, has been hailed as an "outstanding avocational choir" by The New Yorker, and is known for the breadth and variety of its repertoire. The ensemble specializes in a cappella and double chorus works, presenting music from the 16th century to contemporary pieces, including many it has commissioned.

Over the course of its five-decade history, the chorus of 70-plus singers has performed numerous world, American, and New York premieres. This programming reflects Ms. Longstreth's desire to focus efforts on lesser-known works by pre-eminent composers and on new works by living composers. Among them have been Matthew Harris, Paul Alan Levi, Ronald Perera, Ben Moore, Elizabeth Lim, Katherine Hoover, Alla Borzova, Charles Fussell, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Richard Rodney Bennett, Petr Eben, Robert Paterson, Abbie Betinis, Kirke Mechem, Steven Stucky, Luna Pearl Woolf, Ruth Watson Henderson, and Daniel Pinkham.

New Amsterdam Singers has performed with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein; American Russian Youth Orchestra at Carnegie Hall; at Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall under Leon Botstein; Concordia Orchestra and Anonymous Four in Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light with Marin Alsop at Avery Fisher Hall; and with the Limón Dance Company in Kodály's Missa Brevis. On March 13, 2016, NAS presented Golgotha, a 90-minute oratorio for chorus, orchestra, organ, and soloists by the Swiss composer Frank Martin in its first performance since 1952, as part of the Trinity Wall Street Concert Series. In 2013 the singers performed in South Africa; in Greece in 2015; in Iceland in 2017; and in Bulgaria in 2019.

For further information, call (914) 712-8708 or go online to www.nasingers.org. Tickets are available at the door for $30. Tickets are also available in advance online for $25 (general admission), and $20 (students); by phone at the above number; or by mail (New Amsterdam Singers, P.O. Box 373, Cathedral Station, New York, NY 10025).


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