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The Dessoff Choirs Begins New Season with Tribute to Gregg Smith

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The Dessoff Choirs Begins New Season with Tribute to Gregg Smith

The Dessoff Choirs opens its 93rd season with Multidimensional Magnificence: a one-night only performance at Riverside Church inspired by the many concerts produced by American composer/conductor Gregg Smith. His devotion to choral music was greater than almost any one of his generation.

"No other conductor was as influential on other American choral conductors and composers than the great luminary Gregg Smith," says Malcolm J. Merriweather, ninth Music Director and conductor of The Dessoff Choirs. Merriweather wrote the first complete works list for Smith, Now I Walk in Beauty, Gregg Smith: A Biography and Complete Works Catalog. During the second half of the 20th Century, Smith set the standard for professional choirs when he established the Gregg Smith Singers and was widely admired for his contributions to the field of contemporary choral composition through interpretation, commissioning, and recording.

Dedicated to introducing a new generation of listeners to rich choral traditions in urban spaces, The Dessoff Choirs will create a unique aural experience influenced by polychoral traditions of San Marco, Venice, Italy, as well as the stereophonic tendencies of Charles Ives. (Program details are below.) Adhering to Smith's standard of rejecting the rigid two-dimensional paradigm and confines of the concert hall, Dessoff will perform spread around the church in multiple locations creating a surround-sound experience for audiences.

The program includes the double choir Bach motet Singet dem Herrn, the evocative electro-acoustic pieces filament and Mille Regretz, and Smith's If music be the food of love. The concert's first half culminates in Victorian splendor with Parry's Blest pair of sirens, accompanied by Michael Hey. As part of its season-long celebration of Leonard Bernstein's centenary, the choir honors Bernstein's rich legacy by performing an arrangement by Robert Page of Make our garden grow from Candide. Steven Ryan weaves the program together playing excerpts from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet."

About The Dessoff Choirs

The Dessoff Choirs, one of the leading choruses in New York City, is an independent chorus with an established reputation for pioneering performances of choral works from the Renaissance era through the 21st century. Since its founding in 1924, Dessoff's mission is to enrich the lives of its audiences and members through the performance of choral music. Its concerts, professional collaborations, community outreach, and educational initiatives are dedicated to stimulating public interest in and appreciation of choral music as an art form that enhances the culture and life of our times.

With repertoire ranging over a wide variety of eras and styles, Dessoff's musical acumen and flexibility has been recognized with invitations from major orchestras for oratorios and orchestral works. Past performances include Britten's War Requiem and Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with Lorin Maazel in his final performances as Music Director with the New York Philharmonic. Over the course of its 92-year history, Dessoff has presented numerous world premieres, including pieces by Virgil Thomson, George Perle, Paul Moravec, and Ricky Ian Gordon, as well as the first American performance in nearly 100 years of Montemezzi's opera La Nave with Teatro Grattacielo; and the American premieres of Philip Glass's Symphony No. 5, and Sir John Tavener's all-night vigil, The Veil of the Temple.

Dessoff's recent discography includes REFLECTIONS, featuring music by Convery, Corigliano, Moravec, and Rorem, and GLORIES ON GLORIES, a collection of American song featuring composers ranging from Billings to Ives. Please visit dessoff.org for more information.

About Malcolm J. Merriweather

Conductor Malcolm J. Merriweather is Music Director of New York City's The Dessoff Choirs, known for performances of choral works from the pre-Baroque era through the 21st century. An Assistant Professor, he is Director of Choral Studies and Voice Department Coordinator at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Artist in Residence at Union Theological Seminary, and Artistic Director of Voices of Haiti, a 60-member children's choir in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, operated by the Andrea Bocelli Foundation. Merriweather is also in demand as a baritone soloist, often performing throughout the eastern United States.

This past summer, Merriweather led Voices of Haiti in performances with Andrea Bocelli at Teatro del Silenzio in Lajatico, Italy and for Pope Francis at the Vatican. Future conducting highlights of the 2017-18 season include Handel's Messiah at Brooklyn College and the Harvard Club of New York; and Leonard Bernstein's Mass (Concert Selections) and Honegger's King David at Brooklyn College. Recent conducting highlights have included Mozart's Requiem, Vivaldi's Gloria, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, and Orff's Carmina Burana.

Merriweather holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting from the studio of Kent Tritle at the Manhattan School of Music, where his doctoral dissertation, Now I Walk in Beauty, Gregg Smith: A Biography and Complete Works Catalog, constituted the first complete works list for the composer and conductor. He received Master of Music degrees in Choral Conducting and in Vocal Performance from the studio of Rita Shane at the Eastman School of Music, as well as a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Syracuse University, summa cum laude.

Merriweather's professional affiliations include membership in Pi Kappa Lambda, the American Choral Directors Association, and Chorus America, and he sits on the Board of Directors of the New York Choral Consortium.

Please visit malcolmjmerriweather.com for more information. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram @maestroweather.

About Steven Ryan

Steven Ryan has been Dessoff's accompanist and featured keyboard soloist since 1997. He has played celesta with the Berlin Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall; piano, harpsichord, and organ with Dessoff; and synthesizer with the Moody Blues. Conductors he has collaborated with include Vladimir Ashkenazy, Charles Dutoit, Neeme Jäarvi, Sir Neville Marriner, Gerard Schwarz, and Maxim Shostakovich. In 2012 Steve was a featured artist in Dessoff's first Midwinter Festival, performing Robin Holloway's Gilded Goldbergs at Weill Recital Hall with Catherine Venable. In 2011-12 he also appeared on the Stamford Symphony recital series, performed Grammy Award-nominated composer Robert Aldridge's Piano Trio, and toured in Austria.

Steve is a regular accompanist at Montclair State University, working with the choirs and in voice studios. In recent years, he has performed in Russia and France, and played several solos with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Trenton Symphony Orchestra. In 2000, he won second prize at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, and in 2001 he took first place in the Concours des Grand Amateurs de Piano in France.

About Michael Hey
Described as "scintillating" and "tremendously virtuosic" (The Straits Times, Singapore, 2016), concert organist Michael Hey has been increasingly visible on U.S. and international concert stages.

In 2016 and 2017, Michael appeared with the San Francisco Symphony and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas in Lou Harrison's Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra. In 2014, he was the featured organ soloist for the New York City Ballet's newly commissioned work Acheron. Set to the music of Francis Poulenc's Organ Concerto, his performance at its premiere was "vividly played" (The New York Times). Michael has also performed at notable venues such as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Kimmel Center, the Kennedy Center, and the New World Symphony.

In 2015 Michael was appointed Associate Director of Music and Organist of the famed Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, where one of his first major tasks was to perform for the first U.S. visit of Pope Francis. Michael plays at Saint Patrick's Cathedral for services throughout the week, which can be heard on broadcasts through Sirius XM radio, television, and online. A solo recording of Michael playing the organ of Saint Patrick's Cathedral will be released by the JAV recording label in late 2017.

Michael is a graduate of The Juilliard School where he received both his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in organ performance under Paul Jacobs.

Program Details

Giovanni Gabrieli (1555-1612)

Gloria from Sacrae Symphoniae

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Singet dem Herrn, BWV 225

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918)

Blest Pair of Sirens

Gregg Smith (1931-2016)

If music be the food of love

Ian Sturges Milliken (b.1984)

filament

Charles Wood (1866-1926)

Hail, gladdening light

Charles Ives (1874-1954)

Psalm 67

Douglas Geers (b.1968)

Mille regretz

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), arr. Robert Page

Make our garden grow from Candide


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