The Dessoff Choirs Announces its 2019-20 Season Featuring Masterworks Old and New and the Release of its Third Album
New York City, NY (For Release June 5, 2019)— Hailed as “one of the great amateur choruses of our time (New York Today) for its “full-bodied sound and suppleness (The New York Times),” The Dessoff Choirs today announced its 2019-20 season. The Dessoff Choirs celebrates its 95th season with performances of choral masterworks by both 20th century luminaries and today’s most innovative composers. In addition to Dessoff’s popular holiday concerts, the season features the New York premiere of Craig Hella Johnson’s Considering Matthew Shepard, a reprise performance and CD release of Margaret Bond’s The Ballad of the Brown King, and the Fauré Requiem in the original 1893 version. (The complete season schedule is below.)
As Malcolm J. Merriweather, Dessoff’s ninth Music Director explains, “The Dessoff Choirs always performs both old and new choral works, but this season we are doing some that have not been done for many years. We are particularly excited to perform the New York premiere of the musically beautiful and immensely powerful Considering Matthew Shepard.”
All 2019-20 performances are conducted by Malcolm J. Merriweather. Tickets are priced at $20-40 in advance, $25-45 at the door. Tickets are now available for purchase at dessoff.org.
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 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.
The Dessoff Choirs is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. 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. In the summer of 2017, Merriweather led Voices of Haiti in performances with Andrea Bocelli at Teatro del Silenzio in Lajatico, Italy, and for Pope Francis at the Vatican. Merriweather is also in demand as a baritone soloist, often performing throughout the eastern United States.
Conducting highlights of the 2018-19 season included his Mostly Mozart Festival debut conducting the West Choir in the world premiere of John Luther Adams’s In the name of earth, and appearances with Andrea Bocelli and Voices of Haiti at Madison Square Garden. Merriweather conducted world premieres by composers Eve Beglarian, Douglas Geers, Ian Milliken, and Matthew Aucoin as Dessoff celebrated the bicentennial Walt Whitman’s birth. Other highlights included: Ildebrando Pizetti’s Messa di Requiem and Margaret Bonds’s The Ballad of the Brown King with The Dessoff Choirs; Handel’s Messiah at Brooklyn College and the Harvard Club of New York; and William Grant Still’s They Lynched Him on a Tree with Grace Chorale of Brooklyn. Solo engagements for the 2018-19 season included Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Harmonium Choral Society; Robert Convery’s I have a dream for the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; and Handel’s Messiah with the Worcester Chorus.
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.
THE DESSOFF CHOIRS 2019-20 SEASON
Saturday, October 26, 2019, 4:00-6:00 p.m.; Pre-concert talk: 3:15 p.m.
Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway at 121st Street, New York City
The Dessoff Choirs sings Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in the original 1893 version with orchestra and soprano and baritone soloists. Considered to be the composer’s masterpiece, the setting is well-balanced with moments of sensitive reflection and fiery drama. The Requiem is complemented by Ich lasse dich nicht, a motet attributed to J.S. Bach, and William Schuman’s evocative Prelude for Voices.
Prelude for Voices William Schuman (1910-1992)
Ich lasse dich nicht Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Requiem Gabriel Fauré (1845-1922)
Saturday, December 7, 2019, 4:00-6:00 p.m.
Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway, New York City
Dessoff holds its successful Messiah Sing, offering audiences the opportunity to join with the choir to sing Handel’s Messiah choruses with solos sung by Dessoff members.
Messiah George Friderick Handel (1685-1759)
Sunday, December 8, 2019, 4:00-6:00 p.m.; Pre-concert talk: 3:15 p.m.
St. Philips Church, 204 West 134th Street, New York City
The Dessoff Choirs ushers in the winter solstice with a reprise performance of Margaret Bonds’s The Ballad of the Brown King, performed with orchestra, precluding Dessoff’s 2020 CD release of this never-before recorded work. A holiday cantata focusing on Balthazar of the Three Kings, the text was written by Langston Hughes and the entire work was written in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The concert opens with traditional holiday motets and concludes with Silent Night by candlelight and the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.
Rise up, Shepherd, and Follow André J. Thomas (b. 1952)
Carol: O come all ye faithful John Francis Wade (1711-1786)
arr. David Willcocks (b. 1919-2015)
The snow lay on the ground Julian Wachner (b. 1969)
Carol: Hark the herald angels sing Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
arr. Daniel Fortune
The Ballad of the Brown King Margaret Bonds (1913-1972)
Carol: Silent night Franz Xavier Gruber (1787-1863)
Hallelujah from Messiah George Friderick Handel (1685-1759)
The Sprig of Thyme and The Continental Harmonist
Saturday, February 29, 2020, 4:00-6:00 p.m.; Pre-concert talk: 3:15 p.m.
Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway, New York City
The Dessoff Choirs and pianist Steven Ryan present two major 20th century works that focus on early American music and British folksongs. Gregg Smith’s The Continental Harmonist is based on compositions by early American composer, William Billings. The Sprig of Thyme offers a selection of traditional songs of the British Isles, drawing together long-standing favorites such as the Willow Song and The Miller of Dee with such lesser-known gems as O can ye sew cushions and The Sprig of Thyme.
The Continental Harmonist Gregg Smith (1931-2016)
The Sprig of Thyme John Rutter (b. 1945)
Considering Matthew Shepard
Saturday, April 25, 2019, 4:00-6:00 p.m.; Pre-concert talk: 3:15 p.m.
New York Society of Ethical Culture Concert Hall, 2 West 64th Street, New York City
Considering Matthew Shepard is a three-part fusion oratorio about Matthew Shepard, a young, gay student who was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. The story is illustrated by a variety of musical styles seamlessly woven into a unified whole and a wide range of poetic and soulful texts by poets Hildegard of Bingen, Lesléa Newman, Michael Dennis Browne, and Rumi. Passages from Matt’s personal journal, interviews and writings from his parents Judy and Dennis Shepard, newspaper reports and additional texts by Johnson and Browne are poignantly appointed throughout the work.
Considering Matthew Shepard Craig Hella Johnson (b. 1962)
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