Welcome to News from the New York City Master Chorale, our new forum for blog posts, updates, reflections on the season, and more. We are excited to have this added opportunity to connect with all of you, and we hope to see you at our next concert, What Sweeter Music on December 19, 2021!
Reflections on Two Months with NYCMC
These first few months with NYCMC have been great. It honestly feels like our first rehearsal was only yesterday, but here we are with our December concert only a few weeks away. I’ve been struck by this ensemble’s sense of community. They are tight knit yet wonderfully open, folding in new members with ease. For my part, I’ve been grateful for the warm welcome. Making music with NYCMC already feels like home.
Of the things which are most challenging about being a conductor, surely choosing repertoire nears the top of the list. There’s a seeming infinity of great and not-so-great works out there. The more you find, the more you find yourself chasing all the little rabbits back to their holes. There’s also a right piece and a wrong moment for it, or vice versa. Another thing I recently realized is how much I rely on knowing the actual voices of the performers when choosing repertoire. When I was tasked this summer with deciding a season’s worth of music for an ensemble I had never met in person, I did my best to listen to every recording I could get my hands on, and I looked through literally every concert program since the NYCMC’s founding. I’m proud of the result, and I’m thrilled at how well everyone is taking to this challenging lineup. I think we’re headed for an incredible first concert not only of the season, but also our first concert since before the COVID pandemic.
The “What Sweeter Music” concert offers a lot to be excited about too. We open with a gorgeous renaissance motet, Magi veniunt ab oriente by Flemish composer, Jacob Clemens non Papa. Its soaring lines and perfectly balanced counterpoint are truly weightless and other-worldly, a perfect match for the mood late December always brings. Next is a work by Francis Poulenc, Un soir de neige (A snowy evening). It’s filled with some extremely challenging chord progression, so typical of the composer. Once mastered it reveals a perfect depiction of the ravages of winter. I can’t help but hear the sound of snow underfoot. I think my favorite piece of the concert thought has to be the Rheinberger Cantus Missae. It’s everything you’d hope for from a piece of the late German Romantic Period – luscious and memorable melodies with rich chord progressions that are exuberant yet always prayerful. The concert closes with lovely works by Richard Rodney Bennett, a noted film composer and fantastic jazz pianist. His 5 Carols are tender, subtle and intimate, pairing texts taken from 16th century carols with beautiful, at times jazzy harmonies. I can’t wait to get back into rehearsal and work on all this great music!