Tag Archives: The Washington Chorus

Chicago Symphony Chorus treated as Second Class Musicians

Update (29 abril/April 2019): Well, the strike by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has ended due to the intervention of Chicago’s corporatist mayor — who shall remain nameless — and his connections to the super-wealthy. Even though the outcome of the strike has been described as a “compromise,” in the end CSO management accomplished their goals defined in their (what was called) “last, best and final” offer. They accomplished their major goal of gutting fully-paid retirement plans. From the beginning to the end of the strike, the Chicago Symphony Chorus was never mentioned in the articles I read, as if they don’t exist. I was turned off by some of the comments made by the CSO musicians when the strike ended who referred to the CSO as “the greatest Orchestra in the country” and that they would be returning to their audience, “the best audience in the country.” Here we go again with USians having to pump themselves up with the “we are the greatest” pabulum. Even if the CSO were “the great Orchestra in the US” — and how exactly does one determine that? — shouldn’t somebody else be saying that, and not the musicians? What happened to modesty and humbleness CSO musicians? Your comments come off to me as extremely arrogant. Then you have the “best audience” remark/nonsense, which is equally a turn-off. All of this reminds me of a form of Chicago territorial nationalism, and it’s rather childish. “Our Orchestra is better than your Orchestra and we have the best audience, you don’t. Na na na na na.” (roll eyes) You can stand around and pat yourselves on the back and feed yourselves feel-good pabulum (lies?) about how great you think you are, but does it matter at this point when in the end your management got what they wanted? Strikes seem about as futile as protests these days. With the exception of the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests in France, now in their 23rd or 24th consecutive Saturday of protests throughout the country. Their protests have generated some “reforms” from French President Emmanuel Macron, but not enough to fulfill their wishes. So, their protests continue. I think they are banned from protesting on the wealthy Av. des Champs-Élysées. Gilets Jaunes are rather vigilant. Unusual these days. You’d never see that here in the US. Here, especially in the San Francisco, the only thing that people are “vigilant” on is their phone. For the phone zombies, it’s their entire life. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Hola a todos. You’d never know that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has its own Chorus — the Chicago Symphony Chorus — by the coverage of the Orchestra’s strike, going into its seventh week as of this writing. “Outlook is dim” wrote one article I read about the strike.

You’d also never know that the CSO has its own Chorus by any of the free performances given by the CSO in Chicago during the strike because they’ve not included their Symphony Chorus — members of or the Full Chorus — in any performances. Why is that? They’ve only performed orchestral works.

I haven’t heard, because no one is even mentioning the Chorus, but does the elitist management want to erode the salaries of the all-paid Chicago Symphony Chorus too? I don’t know, since nothing has been written about them. According to the performance schedule I saw, the CSO Chorus doesn’t have a performance with the CSO until the latter part of June 2019, and that’s opera, of all things, as opposed to what one might think they would be performing: a symphonic choral work since they are a Symphony Chorus after all, and not an Opera Chorus. They are two different instruments, hence the two names.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is on strike (which I support) for some of the usual reasons that major symphony orchestras go on strike these days. They rejected — what was called — managements (here we go) “last, best and final” offer almost two weeks ago. Elitist management with their bloated executive salaries proposed destroying the musicians defined-benefit pensions. They also imposed the predictable salary cuts. In the negotiations, the elitist Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) Board which is controlled by billionaires and Chicago’s one-percent, would not agree to the musicians’ demands regarding pensions or salary. And the bourgeois management — incapable of feeling shameful — has cancelled all performances through the end of April 2019. In the meantime, members of and or the full CSO have been giving free concerts around Chicago, without the Chicago Symphony Chorus.

I sense that the Chorus does not have (quite) the same reputation it had during the years that its Founder’s name (Margaret Hillis) was attached to it, but then that was a different time and era. And nothing stays the same, does it? Even corruption doesn’t stay the same. It gets worse and worse and more vile. And many people become the opposite of who and what they were as people.

For some time, I’ve had little to no regard for the so-called elitist “management” — they’re usually corporate parasites — that run or try to wreck/ruin musical organisations. We’ve seen this over and over.

I was pleased to see CSO Conductor Riccardo Muti join the strikers and not side with the corporate parasites.

This story has repeated itself time and time again. Why do orchestras need an elitist and out-of-touch group of people called “management?” Now I know why “management” exists, but I think the “management” should be entirely comprised of the musicians themselves, including the members of the Chorus and not elitist corporate parasites. Someone might say: “The musicians have enough to do as it is without being their own management or part there of. The musicians want to play and make music, and not do all that other stuff.” That’s true and I understand that, but this is exactly the problem you run into when billionaires, corporate parasites and non-musicians try to run a musical ensemble. Utter disrespect for the musicians.

To my knowledge, the Chicago Symphony Chorus is still an all-paid Orchestra Chorus. Also to my knowledge, the CSO Chorus is the only all-paid Symphony Chorus in the country/the US. By contrast, only twenty-percent of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus are paid, something the choristers had to fight for and they used the CSO Chorus as an example. I know because I was there at the time. Margaret Hillis, Founder and Director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, offended many San Francisco Symphony Chorus members when she had the nerve to give her opinion during a rehearsal with the Chorus (rather than staying neutral) and sided with San Francisco Symphony management who were bringing her here at the time from Chicago as interim San Francisco Symphony Chorus Director. I remember her saying, “Professional does not mean paid.” Someone should have stood and said, “Well since ‘professional does not mean paid,’ Ms Hillis, may we assume that you won’t mind volunteering your professional services here for free so as to save SFS management the thousands of dollars they’re paying you in salary and to fly you back and forth from here to Chicago to prepare this Chorus? Can we count on you for that, Ms Hillis? Since again, as you say, ‘professional does not mean paid.’ Wouldn’t you like to set an example of that for us? I’m merely making an enquiry, Ms Hillis.” As she’s standing there with a red face and boiling inside from being put on the spot in front of the entire San Francisco Symphony Chorus after sticking her nose into it and supporting “management” with her all-paid Chicago Symphony Chorus. Yes, I’m sure she would have gone for that. The hypocrisy!

To my knowledge, all other Orchestra Choruses in the US are all-volunteer, including orchestras with their own Chorus, such as the 200-voice Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its currently beleaguered Tanglewood Festival Chorus. By the way, someone came to pink barrio recently searching, “Tanglewood Festival Chorus Christmas performance poor.” Oh dear. Well, TFC Chorus Director, James Burton, is currently working to bring the TFC up to the standards of choral excellence expected of the Official Chorus of the BSO.

It should also be pointed out that “all-volunteer” does not mean amateur in this case. These are professional Orchestra Choruses I’m talking about whether they’re paid or not. They all should be fully-paid, just like the Orchestra for which they serve as the Chorus for. Rather than relegating the Chorus to Second Class Musicians’ status.

The Chicago Symphony Chorus became quite a stellar instrument during the Solti years under Founder and Chorus Director, Margaret Hillis, who was appointed by Fritz Reiner. I trained my “choral ear” on the Chicago Symphony Chorus under Hillis/Solti from their recordings. The same performances that won nine Grammy Awards in the Best Choral Performance category under Ms Hillis. I read online in recent years that some of the choristers of the CSO Chorus complained that Ms Hillis was “too nit picky.” (roll eyes) I bet they didn’t say that when they won nine Grammy’s! Being “nit picky” is partly how one earns a Grammy for Best Choral Performance. Ms Hillis’s rehearsal style was very serious; she didn’t mess around. She was superb with a Chorus, even though I didn’t care much for her personality.

Under the current Chorus Director (since Hillis), the Chicago Symphony Chorus has only won one Grammy.

The Men of the CSO Chorus continue to be as superb as they were under Hillis (or at least they were in their Beethoven’s Ninth performance that I heard), but the sopranos and altos are not quite as good, in my opinion. Their soprano section suffers from what seems to be an increasing problem in the US: some shrill, screechy ugly sounds in the sopranos upper register with some noticeable (but needless) vibrato, which I heard in their Beethoven’s Ninth performance. I didn’t hear any of this when the Chorus was prepared by Margaret Hillis. They always sang with a velvety rich smooth, polished sound under Ms Hillis. I suspect if she were alive today and walked into a rehearsal, she would say in her baritone-alto voice: “Sopranos, we need to do a bit of fine-tuning with you. It seems that something has gone a bit haywire since I left and when you won all those Grammys.”

The absence of any mention or participation of the CSO Chorus during the strike, once again, relegates choristers of the highest caliber to that of second class musician status, and I’m sick of it frankly. The thinking seems to be that “they’re just the Chorus; they don’t matter. They’re not real musicians.” Yes, but of course. Just like the Orchestra is “just the Orchestra. They’re not real musicians either, are they?” I bet no one thinks that! Sadly, musically-ignorant people look at choristers differently than they do other musicians. Anyone who thinks that “the Chorus is just the Chorus” doesn’t have a clue what is involved in being in a Symphony Chorus of this caliber and what it takes to get in the Chorus in the first place. I think most people probably think — particular those with no ear for music — that being in a Symphony Chorus is no different than being in one’s podunk church choir, even though no comparison can be made.

Even if the Chicago Symphony Chorus is not at all being affected by the strike, they should indeed still be mentioned and acknowledged in articles about the strike — such as, “the Chicago Symphony Chorus is not affected by this strike” — since they are the Official Chorus for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Again, I’ve not read that the Symphony Chorus has been included in any free performances the CSO has given to the community. The Symphony Chorus — either the Full Chorus or the Chamber Chorus (a smaller group of them) — could easily perform any number of symphonic choral works with the Orchestra. Works they prepared earlier for this season and previous seasons. A Chorus of this caliber has quite a repertoire at-the-ready. They could perform their Beethoven’s Ninth again, as one example. The Orchestra recently performed at a rather large apostolic church in Chicago. The Chorus could have performed there with the Orchestra, but didn’t. I’ve also read nothing about the choristers being on the picket lines to support their orchestral musicians.

“The Big Three”

Assuming there is a next season, the CSO has announced the 2019-20 season and two of “The Big Three” are programmed:

Händel’s Messiah
Beethoven’s Ninth
Orff’s Carmina Burana

Yes, we’re now down to “The Big Three.” Why are they called “The Big Three?” Because they are pretty much the only symphonic choral works that the sheeple will support these days. (Sigh). Mostly gone are oratorios, Bach cantatas and other symphonic choral works, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony. I haven’t seen anyone programme that in the US. There has been a run on the Rossini Stabat Mater in the last couple years with at least two major orchestras and their Chorus or a guest Chorus performing it. Even Mendelssohn’s Elias/Elijah hasn’t survived and that was one of the more frequently performed oratorios in its day. Put back on dusty archive shelves. I had noticed this sometime ago about “The Big Three,” and DC Chorus Director, Robert Shafer, confirmed that. He’s the former Chorus Director for The Washington Chorus (they used to be known as the Oratorio Society of Washington and performed in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall). He’s also Professor Emeritus of Shenandoah Conservatory where he prepared some of the Conservatory’s choral ensembles.

For the 2019-20 season, Chicago is also performing two of “The Big Three:” The Orff and the Beethoven. “The mighty Ninth” in their language. “The mighty Ninth” language appears at least twice on the brochure. I guess some “management” people sat around a conference room table and said, “We’ll call the Ninth ‘mighty’ and the Orff ‘powerful’. Does everyone agree with that? Good.” Yes, there’s all this hyped language throughout the brochure about the pieces to be performed. Another example: “Carl Orff’s powerful Carmina Burana.” And related to my earlier article about vocal soloists-screamers, this is how the CSO “management” is marketing their screamers: “Muti is joined by the CSO Chorus and a cast comprising some of the world’s most distinguished international vocalists.” But I thought that some of the world’s most distinguished vocalists were in the CSO Chorus, so why aren’t they serving as soloists? They could easily do so. It’s the usual: Baiting the public to come to the performance because of the “world’s most distinguished CAST of vocalists.” If they were being honest about it, it would read “A CAST of screamers,” since that’s what most of them amount to. For the 2019-20 season, it looks like the Chicago Symphony Chorus has only 4-5 performances with the Orchestra all season. Other orchestras have really reduced their performances of symphonic choral works as well.

(This paragraph has been corrected. Were 1-2 more performances added for each Chorus since when I first looked at the brochures for the season? Or were they on another page that I somehow missed? Maybe I should stop listing specifically what Orchestra Choruses are doing since the list looks a bit different when I go back months later, then I look like I’m presenting incorrect information which is not my intent. Regardless…) For the current 2018-19 season, the Kennedy Center’s National Symphony Orchestra programmed all of “The Big Three.” The Choral Arts Society of Washington have three performances with them: Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Philip Glass’s Itaipu and one of “The Big Three:” Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The Washington Chorus have two performances with the NSO: Lera Auerbach’s Arctica (Kennedy Center Concert Hall) and one of “The Big Three:” Beethoven’s Ninth at Wolf Trap. The University of Maryland Concert Choir came in with two engagements for the season. I think that’s correct: One of “The Big Three” (that war horse Messiah) and the Rossini Stabat Mater which they’re performing in May 2019 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and also in Carnegie Hall with the NSO. (Tongue in cheek: Is the Choral Arts Society “seething with envy” because the University of Maryland Concert Choir got the Carnegie Hall engagement and not them, as they did when the University of Maryland Chorus was awarded with similar invitations?) The Rossini performance is one that the now-retired and renowned University of Maryland Chorus would be performing with the NSO if The Maryland Chorus (as they were also known) were still around.

The Bottom Line: Orchestras are programming far fewer symphonic choral works these days than in the past (as when I was in major Orchestra Choruses). Because the public will only support “The Big Three?” It seems that I came along at the best time; when the performance of symphonic choral works were at their height. For example, when I was in the Choral Arts Society of Washington, Norman (Scribner) would announce the upcoming season at the beginning of a rehearsal. We’d have maybe 8 performances of major symphonic choral works, mostly with the NSO in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, or with one or two touring guest orchestras, such as The Cleveland Orchestra, for example. The same for the University of Maryland Chorus who usually had the most performances especially under Antal Doráti, since he preferred them, and Robert Shafer’s Oratorio Society of Washington would have one or two engagements with the NSO, since at that time they performed only oratorios, as their name specified. They later changed their name to The Washington Chorus.

As the CSO strike continues, I hope to eventually read something about the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Either about how the strike affects them and/or that they performed with the CSO in one or more of the free concerts. But at this rate, I suspect they’ll never be mentioned, or even invited to perform with the CSO while on strike. “They’re just the Chorus, you know.” (roll eyes/groan). Chau.—el barrio rosa

Related:

The Second Class Musicians

Review: Beethoven’s Ninth – San Francisco Symphony and Symphony Chorus

The Trinity Choir Is In The Wrong Church

The End Of Trinity Wall Street As We Knew It. This article is about the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, conducted by Dr Julian Wachner, in lower Manhattan. Julian is Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street (TWS), a parish church of the Anglican Communion.

Hola a todos. I am so disappointed and disgusted. After watching part of the Liturgy on el 18 de septiembre de 2016 (18 September 2016, and the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost) I turned to mi amigo/my friend and rhetorically asked: Why do so many things have to go in the wrong direction? He knew what I was talking about and said:

Well, it’s usually because we have idiots running things. They’re in positions of power and think they know best, even when they have no expertise or training in the field of study they’re making decisions on. This is especially true when it comes to the music in churches. And the often musically-illiterate clergy think they know best so they proceed to insult the highly-trained musicians by their decisions. And with many, if not most churches, in the minds of the clergy it’s all about the “spoken word” and not the music, even though I think most people are there for the music.

Yes, I think most people are there for the music too. If you look at the videos for Washington National Cathedral in the District of Columbia, their full Liturgy videos get 1-2,000 hits, but their Homily videos only get 100-200 hits. Quite a difference. So that would seem to confirm that most people prefer the full Liturgy which includes the music as opposed to only listening to the Homily.

I was looking forward to the return of the full Trinity Choir after Labour Day 2016. During the Summer months The Trinity Choir is reduced in size to about 8 voices (2 choristers per voice part – SATB), or what I call the Trinity Chamber Chorus. Other than watching parts of their 2015 Messiah performance at TWS, I’ve not heard The Trinity Choir in almost a year and I’ve missed watching and hearing them. They are such a splendid Chorus and with impeccable diction. In my opinion they’re in the same league with the Chorus of Les Arts Florissants (William Christie), the Collegium Vocale Gent (Philippe Herreweghe) and the now-retired University of Maryland Chorus (Dr Paul Traver), as three examples. Choral Excellence. The Trinity Choir, along with the Choir of Men and Boys at St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in Manhattan are the two best Anglican parish choirs (at least with webcasts) in the US, in my opinion. And I would point out that St Thomas takes their music seriously, unlike TWS, and I’m not referring to Julian who is outstanding. St Thomas doesn’t shove their superb Choir into the back of the church where you can’t see them.

About a year ago, I stopped watching the Liturgies at Trinity Wall Street for a couple of reasons: One, because of their inept production/camera crew. Instead of creating an enjoyable and peaceful/calming experience, the Liturgies became too frustrating for me to watch. I honestly think their camera crew would be much better suited for a museum where they could spend hours focused on the walls, the windows in the building and the ceiling of the museum. At least there would be artwork one could look at. As a choral person with years of Symphonic Chorus experience (I’ve listed this many times before, but for any new readers: Norman Scribner’s Choral Arts Society of Washington, Dr Paul Traver’s University of Maryland Chorus and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus – Margaret Hillis/Vance George, Chorus Directors), I thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to the exquisite Trinity Choir and their consistently high level of choral excellence as well as the artistry from their organist, Avi Stein. Choral people like to see/watch Choruses perform. So I became very familiar with the choristers of The Trinity Choir. I didn’t know most of the chorister’s names but I knew their faces. Julian had a “core” group of choristers who were there every week, and then there were others who were there less frequently, having other musical commitments. The choristers of The Trinity Choir are among the finest one will find in NYC and beyond. Julian attracts and requires the best choristers. His standards of choral excellence remain consistent. Watching them perform was a critically important part of the experience of the Liturgy for me and mi amigo/my friend. That’s why I complained many times about inept production disrespecting their own Choir by not showing them when they sang at times throughout the Liturgy, especially for their Communion Anthem. Production felt it more important to show parishioners receiving communion. They find that interesting, do they? Their Choir was to serve as background music which we found very irritating.

Some Background/History (if this is your first time here): When I first started watching their Liturgies, their camera crew was very respectful of their Choir and kept the cameras on them when they performed. I had no complaints at that time with production. But as is usual and with the attitude being “let’s mess with something that shouldn’t be messed with,” something changed for some unknown reason. It’s as if some crazy person at TWS said, “People don’t like to watch singers/choirs sing.” Nonsense. Production at TWS seem to think that their Choir should be background music. Heard and not seen, and they’ve since taken that to a new level (which I’ll get to later). With that anti-artistic attitude — heard and not seen — one might as well just play music from CDs, not to give them any ideas and don’t think that can’t happen! I would like to remind TWS that singing is merely an extension of speaking, so why do we need to see the priests speaking? To be consistent, shouldn’t the priests be heard and not seen as well? Why is important to see them, if it’s not important to see their Choir?

As I said earlier, production thought it was more important for viewers to see the parishioners coming and going to receive Communion than it was to show their own Choir singing the Communion anthem. Oh, they would occasionally show the choir during Communion way over there in the distance as the camera parked at the very back of the Nave. But there’s one thing they never do at TWS: They never disrespect their priests by wandering off and showing the ceiling of the Nave, stained-glass windows, baskets of flowers, or the High Altar when a priest is speaking. They keep that camera locked on the priest until s/he has spoken their last word at that point in the Liturgy. Why don’t their highly-trained and regarded musicians receive the same level of respect? Again (to hammer this point for the thick people who may show up), production never wandered off to show stained-glass windows, slowly scanning the High Altar, showing baskets of flowers and their unchanging ceiling which they have the deepest affection for — don’t ask me why since there’s nothing special about it and it looks like any other Nave ceiling and it never changes — when the priests were/are giving the Homily or during the Consecration or any other time. I got tired of seeing the same ceiling and stained-glass windows week after week when I wanted to see their outstanding Choir. Production seemed obsessed with the windows in the building, and they still do. I don’t understand this at all. Another reason I stopped watching their Liturgies was because they began this nearly-weekly repertoire of gospel/spiritual music for the Offertory and/or Communion Anthems. One might be asking: In an Anglican Liturgy? Yes. I never was clear who’s idea this was, whether it came from the clergy or from Julian. I came to suspect it was Julian’s idea and not that of the new rector since this was going on before he arrived. Regardless, it was really misplaced and caused a clashing of styles because you would have gospel/spiritual music one moment and a superb High Church organ improvisation from Julian with incense the next. It was like being in a southern baptist church one moment and then quickly running across the street to an Anglo-Catholic parish the next. Loco. Two very different forms of worship right back-to-back. It did not work. And I think some choristers knew it didn’t work. Consequently, their Liturgies became more a frustration for me than a pleasure to watch. It also frustrated me to see the talent of The Trinity Choir wasted on gospel and spiritual music, when they excel at High Renaissance choral works, and those works were being neglected. I’m not putting down gospel or spiritual music at all. Both have their place, but not in an Anglican Liturgy in my opinion. And there’s a very different/advanced skill level required for High Renaissance compared to gospel music. There’s no shortage of churches out there featuring gospel and spiritual music on a weekly basis, so if one wants to hear that genre one could go to those churches. But churches with High Renaissance performed as superbly as The Trinity Choir performed those works are most rare by comparison. So why join the herd and try to be like those other churches? So I stopped watching their Liturgies. I was also linking to their Liturgy videos in my articles about the Choir. Then I realised I was ending up with lots of dead links because Trinity deleted the videos of their Liturgies after roughly 3 months. I’ve yet to understand why they don’t upload their videos to YouGoogleTube — like they do at Washington National Cathedral — where their videos can remain indefinitely since they (TWS) own the copyright to them. I had also linked to their superb performances of Messiah and Israel in Egypt. Both of those oratorio performances were deleted too. By doing so, they were deleting legendary performances (if you had heard them you’d know I’m not exaggerating) of choral works — especially the High Renaissance music I mentioned earlier — and all of those performances were deleted. Unconscionable. That also told me that TWS does not have a serious respect for their music. They consider their music more filler or fluff as so many churches do. Because only someone with no ear for music and a lack of appreciation for choral excellence would delete those outstandingly superb performances by their own Choir. For those who don’t know, this is a Choir that performs at Lincoln Center every holiday season (Messiah). How many church choirs do you know of that perform at Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts?

This brings us up to the current time. Well, The full Trinity Choir is now back for the 2016 Fall Season. But most unfortunately we can no longer see them or see Julian conduct or see Avi. I am thoroughly disgusted with what has happened since I stopped watching their Liturgies.

Again, The Trinity Choir is not your typical podunk church choir which often comes with wobbling and slightly flat sopranos whose voice range is closer to altos than that of highly-skilled sopranos, weak/straining and flat tenors without any breath support, quivering altos and hollow-sounding basses. A real joy to listen to! [sarcasm intended]. So why is The Trinity Choir now stuck in the back of the Nave up in the Gallery? What is wrong with these people who make these insane, insipid, asinine, ludicrous decisions? [SCREAM!] I don’t understand them at all. People who make these ludicrous decisions in churches — and respectfully I don’t think this came from Julian — are not there for the music. To people like this, the music is just something to “fill up” the Liturgy at the appointed time per the service leaflet. They have no ear for quality music. They can’t tell the difference between The Trinity Choir and The Family Choir, and there’s a major difference between the two. I remember reading an article about TWS (pre-Julian) that said that they were considering abandoning/closing their music programme altogether. That shows what little respect this parish has historically for music. Appalling.

So now, the camera view they show of the Choir is completely useless. One just sees bodies standing in the back Choir Loft in red cassocks and white surplices. You have no idea which choristers are there. And because production doesn’t need to show a Choir now (which must please them and make them feel relieved), they now have the luxury of giving lots of time to their fixation and obsession with slow panning of the stained-glass windows, of the ceiling, and more stained-glass windows, additional stained-glass windows, and what about this stained-glass window over here?, and the slow panning of the High Altar for the umpteenth time, and of course flower baskets. I take it that production must live under the illusion that they have no regular viewers who have seen all of these scenes many, many times before. Then they’re back to the useless camera view of their Choir stuck back there in the distance in the gallery/Choir Loft behind the faux pipes. They consider this an improvement, do they? Loco.

And they didn’t move any mics for this pathetic arrangement. Or if they did, they didn’t know what they were doing. So the choral sound is now different. It’s as if the acoustics are eating up all the crispness in the highs and lows of the sound in the choral works. It’s a much more muffled sound with the Choir in the back, as if the echoing is eating up or consuming the sound. The sound quality is not nearly as good as it was when the Choir sat near the High Altar. When the Choir sat in front of or on the sides of the High Altar the sound was superb. Very crisp, clear and the highest of quality. They used to have small microphones hanging about a foot above the heads of the choristers when they sat in front of the High Altar. Then those microphones seem to have disappeared; I no longer saw them. With the Choir stuck in the back Gallery, they should never attempt a professional recording from that location. Although upon reflection, I think the back Gallery would be an ideal location for a Homily, then we can all get on our phones and do something else while that’s going on, no?

It seems that someone there said (probably in some perfunctory committee meeting – you don’t leave this stuff to some committee with no ear for music!): What can we do to solve this problem? Because some person online keeps going on about not being able to see our Choir and wanting to keep the camera on them when they perform. Oh I know, here’s what we can do: Put The Trinity Choir in the back gallery/Choir Loft so we can’t show them at all. That’s it! Problem solved. And we can buy a new organ console (I’m assuming that’s what they did) for the back gallery to control the main console for the Digital organ in the Chancel/Sanctuary area. Problem solved.

No, the problem is not solved at all and anyone with an ear for music knows that. In fact, it’s the worst thing they could have done. All of these fine musicians (Choir, Julian and Avi) have become invisible with the lowest of profile. Heard but not seen. I’m just curious how long they’ve been stuck back there in the Gallery/Choir Loft. (Sigh.)

Trinity Wall Street is an odd church in that it was not built with a Quire area. When I began watching their Liturgies, the Choir was sitting in front of the High Altar. Technically, nothing is to be in front of the High Altar but as far as I’m concerned we can make an exception to Anglican protocol in this instance so that we can see this outstandingly superb Choir perform. A Choir of this caliber does not belong stuck in the back of a church. Period. They deserve to be seen as they were when I was watching their Liturgies. The Trinity Youth Chorus Schola sat in front of the High Altar last Domingo/Sunday (18 September 2016). Since it was acceptable for them to sit there, why can’t The Trinity Choir sit there every week? After their new (icy) rector arrived, the Choir began sitting in the traditional Anglican choir style facing each other split on both sides of the High Altar. That worked, although because of inept production/camera techniques — and because they didn’t adjust the production lighting — it was difficult for viewers to see the back row of each side of the Choir. It was sort of dark back there. On occasion, we were looking at the backs of the choristers from over near the organ console. So it appears that rather than refine their camera work — I had suggested they go over to B & H Photo in Manhattan for production assistance and training — they’ve chosen to abandon showing their musicians altogether. And apparently to them that solves the problem. Ludicrous.

Then there’s Julian: I really don’t think TWS knows what they have in him. He gets results that Margaret Hillis and Dr Paul Traver got with a Chorus. When The Trinity Choir sat in front of or split on either side of the High Altar, I also very much enjoyed watching Julian conduct. He has a very unique conducting style. You can see and feel the music in his conducting as you hear it. I remember one occasion for Ash Wednesday when they performed “O Saviour of the World” by the Anglican composer John Goss. Julian lifted up on his toes and signaled to the best tenor section in NYC up there on his right — which included my favourites Steven Caldicott Wilson and Eric Dudley — and prepared them/signaled to them to bring out that approaching tenor line. They did. Viewers heard the tenor section soar that line above the rest of the choral texture. It was beautiful. But you would not necessarily get those same results and that detail from any other choral director. Julian is a pleasure to watch and it saddens and disgusts me that I/we can no longer see him. It is really outrageous.

Off topic but still making my point about Julian: I read the review from The Washington Post from when Julian’s The Washington Chorus, performed Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with the NSO (I think it was the NSO). His Chorus received a stellar review for their performance. I think it’s accurate to say that when I lived in the District, the University of Maryland Chorus “owned” that monumental work when they performed it with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam conducted by Claudio Abbado at the Kennedy Center. I was there for their performance. “Paul Traver’s University of Maryland Chorus was glorious throughout!” was part of the review of their concert. And you might find this interesting: After I moved to San Francisco, in a phone call with wonderful Dr Traver — who was most generous with his time — I asked him how The Maryland Chorus got that Missa Solemnis engagement and he told me that Claudio Abbado contacted Margaret Hillis in Chicago and asked her to recommend a Symphonic Chorus in the Washington Metropolitan Area for the Beethoven. She recommended the UMD Chorus because she had previously worked with them and Dr Traver on the University of Maryland at College Park campus. But back to TWS: How can TWS shove a choral conductor/expert who recently received the prestigious Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence for his Symphonic Chorus in the District (The Washington Chorus) behind a wall of faux pipes where you can’t even see him in a back Gallery of a church? Outrageous.

I also thought it was odd way-back-when, when they removed the camera from the organ console. Why would they do that? That was also a sign of a lack of respect for the music. So viewers were no longer allowed to see Avi play his organ voluntaries, the hymns or anything else, compared to before when Eric William Suter (who filled in there for awhile; I enjoyed him) and Janet were there (the organ student from The Juilliard School). We used to have the pleasure of seeing the musical interactions between Avi, and right across from him in camera view was Julian in front of the Choir. That’s the type of scene a choral musician likes to see. The interaction between all the musicians.

But now, there’s none of that. Dead. And they consider this a positive change?

Also with this terrible arrangement, The Trinity Choir no longer processes which in my opinion makes their Liturgy seem lower church. I miss the traditional procession complete with the Choir. This is no improvement. Did all of this come from this new rector? And this current arrangement gives no “profile” to the choristers whatsoever. They become beyond anonymous because viewers can’t even see who’s there. It’s terrible and in my opinion not even worth watching.

It’s all about the clergy now. Well, I can’t imagine Julian is too pleased with this.

Since they apparently consider this an improvement, I have some other ideas they might consider as an “improvement:” I suggest they stick the priests in the back. See how they like sitting back there, heard but not seen. Also, when a priest is speaking during the Homily (for example), in mid-sentence have the cameras wander off the priest and begin showing stained-glass windows, slowly scan the High Altar showing every crevasse possible, zoom in on a basket of flowers for awhile, then back to more stained-glass windows, and then slowly scan the ceiling for the entire length of the Nave. By then, the Homily might be over. If they were to ever do this (which of course they won’t), I wonder if the priests would feel at all disrespected? If so, maybe they would be able to understand more fully how the superb musicians feel.

If only the musicians of TWS were in a parish that respects them in the same way that St Thomas Fifth Avenue have the highest regard for their superb Choir of Men and Boys, their organists, and they focus their Liturgy on their Choir and organists with a Festal Choral Eucharist every Domingo/Sunday. If only The Trinity Choir, Julian and Avi received that same level of respect that they certainly deserve. Sadly, it’s as if they’re all in the wrong church. Fin. The End. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Here’s an example of how camera work should be done when one wants to be respectful of the musicians (from hr-Sinfonieorchester/Frankfurt Symphony Orchestra, one of my favourites):

or here (in a choral context, Les Arts Florrisants):

Thought you might enjoy this short piece (also Les Arts Florrisants):

UPDATE: After comments closed for this article, I received an e-mail regarding TWS’s production work. The person did not defend production but wanted to say that organist Diane Bish in her programme The Joy of Music used some of the same camera techniques that TWS uses (stained-glass windows especially) and maybe that’s where they’re getting this from. Perhaps. But I would like to point out that with The Joy of Music it was in a very different context. Unlike with TWS, Diane was in a different parish or cathedral church every week so the camera techniques that Haney Productions used for her programme worked well for her because each week the building was new to the viewer. With TJOM, viewers were not stuck looking at the same windows, ceiling, and columns as they had seen for months as is the case with TWS. Haney Productions did an excellent job producing Diane’s programme and the scenes they did show in her videos were never at the expense of the music or musical artist guests, as is the case at TWS or at Washington National Cathedral (both now have terrible camera crews when it comes to respecting the music; I don’t know what happened because at one time they didn’t). I actively watched all of Diane’s programme that were shown over the years and I don’t remember a time where I asked, “why are we looking at this instead of Diane?” Any scenes they showed while the music was being performed they showed quickly in order to get the camera back on Diane or her guest musicians. Unlike Trinity and WNC where production seems to think it’s all about them and their cameras rather than the music, which they seem to think is secondary/background. I appreciated the e-mail and I have talked about this specifically in a past article about The Trinity Choir, I just didn’t write about it in this article. It was already long enough. Gracias. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Coming Soon: The Trinity Wall Street Praise Band

How long before praise bands appear at Trinity Wall Street?

[I've updated this article. See the comment section, por favor.]

Hola, after hearing The Trinity Choir perform, “Same Train” (*roll eyes*) for the 20 de septiembre Liturgy, mi amigo asked me:

“So, how long before a praise band shows up at Trinity Wall Street?”

Yeah. I understand his point. And the week before that they performed, “This Little Light O’ Mine.” I recently wrote about churches here in The Imperialistic Empire dumbing-down and bringing in praise bands to pacify their sheeple.

Nearly every time I check in with Trinity Wall Street (TWS), the Trinity Choir is singing spirituals/gospel-type music. Or there’s spiritual/gospel-type music for the Sequence Hymn (the hymn before The Gospel reading). Or there’s spiritual/gospel-type music for the Communion Hymn. That’s often accompanied by Julian playing that grand piano they have parked in front of the High Altar.

For the 2015-16 season, I see they have lost a few excellent choristers, maybe only temporarily (Dashon, Steven CW, and Matthew come to mind). The Trinity Choir has quite a revolving door. They have a core group of choristers but other than the core group one never know who’s going to show up. The thing that stays the same about this Chorus is the name: The Trinity Choir.

I’ve often said that it seems that Dr Julian Wachner, Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street, is in the wrong denomination. I think he would be much better in a Southern Baptist church instead of an Anglican parish because of his strong interest and affection for spirituals and gospel-type music. From my experience in Anglican parishes and cathedral churches, spirituals and gospel-type repertoire are not used.

From time-to-time, I’ve kept up with what The Trinity Choir has been performing since I stopped watching their Liturgies. I stopped watching their Liturgies mainly because of their annoying camera work. They love to show parishioners receiving Communion — there’s not much to look at with that since it looks the same each week — instead of showing viewers the Communion Anthem being sung by The Trinity Choir. Their camera people have this deep devotion to their ceiling. Oh they do so love their ceiling and they want all viewers to see their ceiling repeatedly. (It’s an ordinary ceiling.) From the ceiling, the camera slowly moves down to the stained glass windows and then to the High Altar, none of which changes from week-to-week. I think the intent is to give the impression that one is sitting in the Nave and looking around the church. But when The Trinity Choir is performing shouldn’t the person sitting in the pew be looking at them rather than off looking at the ceiling or the windows? And because of their camerawork, you’ve missed seeing The Trinity Choir perform a part of their anthem because la producción think they know best and think you the viewer must look at the ceiling, windows and High Altar. For some time, I’ve sensed that the camera people view the music at TWS as secondary or background to the Liturgy. They show The Trinity Choir intermittently. They’re mostly shown from back in the Nave. With their camera work, the thinking seems to be the same mentality that the corporate media have here in the US which is, “Keep that camera moving for the no-attention span sheeple.” Well, I would think that anyone who goes out of their way to watch a Liturgy from TWS would have a bit of an attention span, no?

Another reason I say la producción see the music as secondary is that viewers no longer get to see the organist play the organ voluntaries as used to be the case. They apparently removed that camera from the left side of the organ console where it used to be. So while the organ voluntaries are being played — and I should point out that the organ voluntary is still part of the Liturgy so parishioners should not be yapping/talking over it — the viewer is shown the Nave and people standing around talking and disrespecting the organ voluntary. Some parishioners are doing a “show and tell” and showing each other their phones and they’re sharing in their smartstupidphone addiction (smartphones are transforming have transformed society into a sea of stupid). Ugh. Sadly, some people can’t even be in church these days without engaging in their phone addiction.

The Trinity Choir that I listened to when I was watching their Liturgies regularly during the 2013-14 season (when Dashon Burton, Steven Caldicott Wilson and Matthew were in the Choir) excelled at Renaissance music. They were superb at music of the Renaissance period, which is not just for Lent. And it pissed me off when TWS deleted those superb performances from their website, which told me that they don’t really have an ear for music or consider the music that important, because the performances they deleted were extraordinarily superb. Renaissance music sets a very different mood for a Liturgy than spirituals and gospel-type music. The Trinity Choir of the 2013-14 season reminded me of the superb Chorus of Les Arts Florissants en Francia. There are many churches today doing spirituals/gospel type music without Trinity adding to the pile. English Cathedral choral works; however, as performed as superbly as The Trinity Choir is known for performing them are not that often performed by comparison. Mi amigo says, “Julian has The Trinity Choir in a gospel and spirituals rut.”

They have a new rector at TWS and hopefully he’s better than the greed-based luxury condo parasite they had before. El hombre was all about greed (NYC’s Trinity Wall Street Selling Luxury $12M Townhouse After Exit of Ex-Rector Accused of Extravagant Spending). Their new rector seems to be no different. He requires: “a 2,300-square-foot Battery Park City apartment with three terraces and riverfront views, according to the post. The rent was advertised at $15,000 a month.” What? He requires a place that costs $15,000 USD a month? I’m an Anglican atheist but from what we’ve been told about jesus, I can’t see jesus requiring some Luxury Designer Condo (Dahling) whether it’s called an “apartment” or not costing $15,000/month. That’s outrageous. Why doesn’t this rector set an example for his parish and others by living more simply, and ride a bicycle?

Trinity has stopped posting their service leaflets. So anyone who wants to worship online — maybe no one does that or they don’t get any hits, I don’t know — can’t do so because no service leaflet is available now. And as has always been the case with their site their videos are extremely slow to load and sometimes skip when playing. As much dinero/money as this church has, they can’t come up with a system with fast-loading and non-skipping videos? This has been a problem for years yet nothing is done about it. Sigh.

The Trinity Choir has been moved to either side of the High Altar instead of being in front of the High Altar where they were. (Nothing is supposed to be in front of the High Altar). I like that change. Now, they are seated in the standard Anglican English Cathedral/parish seating style with the Choir split facing each other on either side of the High Altar. That’s the way it should be. But there’s still a slight problem. Why does Julian (and Avi when he conducts the psalm/Anglican chant) conduct standing in front of the High Altar? In an Anglican cathedral church or parish church it’s customary for the Choirmaster to conduct from the side. S/he stands on one side of the Choir, usually on the organ console side. Other than Julian’s excellent High Church organ improvisations, from what I’ve observed from him he comes off to me as very Low Church, which is another reason I think he would fit in very nicely with a Southern Baptist church.

It’s very odd that when Trinity Wall Street was built that they built no Quire area. And as much la plata/money as this church has they could afford to buy several pipe organs — including a new pipe organ for St Thomas Fifth Avenue as a “christian service from one parish to another” since they’re working on buying a new pipe organ at St Thomas — so it’s very curious that they went with that digital organ they have. (I bet there’s a story there).

Considering the new placement for The Trinity Choir as of septiembre de 2015, the much larger Family Choir couldn’t possibly fit there, so maybe/hopefully the Family Choir has been relegated to the basement permanently.

Other than the superb music at St Thomas Fifth Avenue, Anglican church services these days are mostly dull and uninspiring at least for me. Fortunately, there’s no gospel music or spirituals at St Thomas Fifth Avenue and one is not about to hear any there either as they are still High Church.

At TWS, they seem to try to be “all things to all people” — I can’t think of any place where that silly concept has worked anywhere — so you have “Low Church” (spirituals) back-to-back with “High Church” (incense during the organ improvisation into the Doxology). It’s such a major clash of styles. Doesn’t anyone notice, or are people too busy with their faces buried in their phones?

Julian is also music director for the 200-voice The Washington Chorus in the District. Would Julian programme spirituals/gospel music on the same programme with Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony or the Berlioz Requiem or Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis when The Washington Chorus performs in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall or at Wolf Trap? I think not. But that’s essentially what he does at TWS. Why?

Down at Washington National Cathedral in the District, their best organist, Benjamin Straley, has been sanitised and apparently ordered — by Michael McCarthy? — to “keep it Low Church” since that’s how he plays now. Even his improvisations after The Gospel reading are subdued. I remember when they used to be “grand and glorious.” Based on his playing these days, apparently someone at WNC does not appreciate his (former) signature High Church style of organ playing one heard and appreciated when he first arrived there. At that time, I had nothing but positive things to say about Benjamin’s playing. He was a pleasure to listen to and watch. That was then. Today, especially with his hymn playing, he’s now as boring, dry-as-dust and “by the book” to listen to as that other stagnant “plain Jane” organist they have, who I now refuse to waste my time listening to. Note to church musicians: It’s dull and uninspiring to hear every verse of a hymn played the same damn way as if you’ve never seen the hymn before and are sight-reading it. But I guess that’s what they want at WNC, to appear dumbed-down Low Church (ugh). When he first arrived at WNC, Benjamin used nice organ interludes which he improvised in between hymn verses on occasion. Interludes spice up a hymn. But I no longer hear those. He’s been sanitised. Also, at Washington National Cathedral they seem to sing the same hymns all the time, and they’re mostly the dull hymns that I didn’t enjoy playing when I was an Anglican church organist. I suspect if one went through the service leaflets week after week at WNC, one would keep seeing pretty much the same hymns repeated over and over.

At the rate TWS is going with Julian and his strong interest in spirituals/gospel music, how long before they drag in or form their own Trinity Wall Street Praise BandTM? Chau.—el barrio rosa

Related:

If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing The outstanding Trinity Choir, you can hear them below in these videos from YouGoogleTube. As I’ve said before, they’re not your typical church choir by any definition. I heard them perform the first half of the Bach during the 2013 season (I think) for the Communion Anthem. This recording is not from that performance. I suspect it’s from a recording session. It’s a very peaceful and lovely piece, and Julian is conducting. Two examples of Choral Excellence. Enjoy. Chau.

Bach: O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, BWV 118

Known as “the oratorio of choruses” and for Double Chorus (one of my favourites). I saw a video of their live performance of this in TWS (that video has been deleted too, UGH!, unfortunately). I think Julian took a slightly slower tempo for this final Chorus in their live performance than he does here:
Händel: Israel in Egypt – Sing Ye to the Lord (Solo and Chorus)

Remembering Norman Scribner, Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of the Choral Arts Society of Washington

Hola. I’m sorry I’m having to write this. I was very sorry to hear that Norman Scribner died unexpectedly from a heart attack this past Domingo/Sunday at his home in the District of Columbia. I had the opportunity and privilege of being in his Choral Arts Society of Washington (one of the major Orchestra Choruses there) when I lived in the District in the mid-late 1970s. Norman was the first choral director to give me the opportunity to be in a major Orchestra Chorus which performed regularly in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. The Choral Arts Society of Washington (CASW) grew out of what began as The Norman Scribner Choir which had been formed for performances of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass (the work was partly intended as an anti-war statement) for part of the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the District.

I remember going to the CASW audition in Satterlee Hall in upper NW on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral. I don’t remember much about the audition. What I do remember was feeling absolutely thrilled when I got a phone call a few days after the audition which went something like this:

“Hello, this is the Choral Arts Society of Washington and we would like to invite you to sing with us this season.”

Oh! That was the call I had been waiting for. That was a dream come true for me. One of my goals in music was to have the opportunity to perform with the Choral Arts Society of Washington and the University of Maryland Chorus and with major orchestras in the Kennedy Center, including the National Symphony Orchestra, the resident orchestra in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. And because of Norman, he made that possible for me and I will always remember him for that. I enjoyed a couple of seasons with the Choral Arts Society before auditioning and being accepted by Dr Paul Traver for his University of Maryland Chorus.

Norman required and expected the highest standards for his Choral Arts Society. At that time, the members of the Choral Arts Society were so skilled, so good and such good sight-readers that even if one did not know the choral work being prepared, just from our sight-reading the piece one got a very good sense of how the piece was supposed to sound. Even the sight-reading sounded glorious! Often when the Chorus would sight-read a choral work it sounded like it was almost ready to be performed! Being in the CASW was intenso and I began to feel that as we moved through the many months and the selected repertoire for each season. At one point I remember feeling like I was living in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with all the rehearsal and performance requirements. It was a positive experience but at one point I felt as if I were burning out. That happens with some people and I think the average stay in an Orchestra Chorus is between 2-4 years, if I remember correctly what Vance George (former chorus director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus) said in an interview. There were also choral politics involved which I talk about in this article. There wasn’t much of a commute for me to rehearsals. I lived in the District so I took the Metrobus up Wisconsin Avenue to rehearsals, which were twice a week. We had sectionals on lunes/Monday and full Chorus was on martes/Tuesday. My weekly commute out to the University of Maryland at College Park for rehearsals was a different story. That was a lot more complicated and I knew that would be the case before I auditioned. The commute was the main reason I had waited to audition for The Maryland Chorus. I didn’t own a vehicle and the metro was in its early stages of being built at that time (the metro was mainly in the downtown area of the District) so I took the Metrobus out to Maryland. It took awhile to get out there, especially in the snow. I remember at least one occasion of having to run across the campus in the snow to the School of Music for rehearsal. I don’t think I would do what someone does today. I read that at least one chorister who sings in the Choral Arts Society comes from as far away as Charlottesville in central Virginia. That’s about a 2.5 – 3 hour drive one way to the District line. Then from there, she has to drive all the way up Wisconsin Avenue to the same rehearsal location I went to decades ago. And then after 10.00pm (end of rehearsal) she has to drive all the way back to Charlottesville. I don’t think I would do that and wouldn’t have done that in the 1970s. That’s too much of a commute and none of the choristers of the Choral Arts Society are paid. But with many major Orchestra Choruses (Choral Arts Society of Washington, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, etc) I’ve read that many people do commute far distances to have the experience of performing with the Chorus. The same is true in other countries such as with the National Youth Orchestra and Choir of Great Britain. The members of both the Orchestra and Chorus come from all over Britain and they perform in various concert halls, including at the BBC Proms.

By choice, the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) does not have its own Orchestra/Symphony Chorus and at the time I sang with them there were mainly three major Orchestra Choruses which got invited to perform regularly in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with them and guest national and international orchestras. They were the:

University of Maryland Chorus
Dr Paul Traver, Chorus director

Choral Arts Society of Washington
Norman Scribner, Chorus director

Oratorio Society of Washington
Robert Shafer, Chorus director

(The Oratorio Society of Washington is now called The Washington Chorus with Chorus director Dr Julian Wachner)

Norman retired as director of the CASW in 2012 and after an extensive search for a new director they chose Scott Tucker from Cornell University to replace Norman. Someone might be asking: Is the CASW as good today as they were when you sang with them? I don’t know. I haven’t heard them. I would imagine they would say they are. When I sang with them, I remember our “sound” being compared with the London Bach Choir and the Münchener Bach-Chor.

These days, with the occasional exception, I’m more and more getting the impression that things are not as good as they used to be in this regard. For example, I know from listening to the Tanglewood Festival Chorus that they are not as good as they once were. The CAWS was a superb Chorus in the late 1970s. At that time they were a very young-looking Chorus and we had many choristers who were students from the local universities. As I remember, the Choral Arts Society was as “young-looking” as the University of Maryland Chorus. But just like with Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the CAWS now looks like an older Chorus from the pictures I’ve seen of them. And because of that, I suspect their “sound” has changed some because older voices sound differently than younger voices.

Norman was very down-to-Earth, never arrogant despite all his accomplishments. He was very friendly and enjoyable to work with. For some reason, one thinks that people like that will never die because they’re such good people. But the way it seems to work instead is that the good people die and the bad people seem to live on forever, if you know what I mean. I won’t name names. Some thoroughly corrupt and sleazy politicians who should be rotting away in prison come to mind. There’s one in particular I’ve noticed that seems to be propped up because of heart transplant surgery, even though he already looks well-embalmed whenever I have the misfortune of seeing that man’s snarly face! You might be able to come up with a few names yourself. Norman would appreciate this I think, and I say that based on what I wrote in this article.

I remember when Norman would announce the repertoire for the coming season that was always a special event. It was always a major symphonic choral work with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), or a major national or international visiting guest orchestra. He would say:

We’re doing the massive Berlioz Requiem in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (KCCH) with the Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus with Michel Plasson conducting, to which the room erupted into a roar of excitement and approval.

We’re doing Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) by Haydn in the Kennedy Center with the ________ orchestra (I don’t remember which orchestra it was) and conductor. I think Norman conducted The Seasons, so maybe that was with the NSO. That was a fun piece to perform, one of my favourites and our soprano section was splendid. Ever since serving as piano accompanist for my high school Chorus, I’ve always paid special attention to the soprano section of a Chorus and therefore I paid close attention to our soprano section in the CASW, especially on their highest notes. No vibrato at all but rather a flute-like sound, more like English choir boys/girls. Our soprano section was wonderful.

Norman would continue:

We’re doing the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem with the Cleveland Orchestra and Lorin Maazel, conducting. (I presume we were filling in for the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus which was not touring with their orchestra. If I’m remembering correctly, Lorin Maazel was difficult to work with even though we were superbly prepared by Norman).

We’re doing The Bells by Sergei Rachmaninov with the _________ orchestra (again, I don’t remember which orchestra it was) and Mstislav Rostropovich conducting.

We’re doing Ralph Vaughan William’s A Sea Symphony with members of the National Symphony Orchestra and I’ll be conducting.

Anyway, it went something like that. Everyone always looked forward to hearing what the repertoire would be for the coming season. I always wanted to do Felix Mendelssohn’s Elias (Elijah) with the CASW but unfortunately we never performed that while I was with them.

Whenever we had our one orchestra rehearsal before a performance in the Kennedy Center with the NSO, the orchestra members were always welcoming. The conductor would say, “We would like to welcome the (either) Choral Arts Society of Washington (or the) University of Maryland Chorus” (whichever one it was) and the orchestra members would look back at us on the chorus risers and smile and applaud us.

Performing with Norman’s Choral Arts Society of Washington was a very positive experience and I thank Norman Scribner for giving me that opportunity.

From what I’ve read, a memorial service for Norman will be el 9 de abril/the 9th of April at 10.30a in Washington National Cathedral (WNC), a cathedral church of the Anglican Communion. So I’m assuming that maybe there will be a private burial or cremation before his public memorial, no? I don’t know. The funeral home handling this called this event at WNC a “funeral,” but on WNC’s website they call it a “memorial.” I would guess that the Choral Arts Society (either Full Chorus or the Chamber Chorus) will perform for the memorial. I say that because a group of choristers from The Maryland Chorus performed for Dr Traver’s funeral.

I wrote more about my experiences in the Choral Arts Society in my article about the University of Maryland Chorus at that link. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Memorial Service for Norman Scribner at Washington National Cathedral, District of Columbia: