Learning the Brahms Requiem in Two Weeks: Report from the Summer Choral Festival


The best treat after a hard day’s work? Ice cream? Binge tv watching? Relaxing in a bath with a glass of wine? No, no, and no: Challenging ourselves with German words set to the Romantic music of Johannes Brahms. This year, the Summer Choral Festival hosted by St. George’s Choral Society will present Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem on June 18 after only two weeks of rehearsals.

Committed to this challenge, the participants of the choral festival came to the first two rehearsals this past week with their pipes in working order and phenomenal focus (there was only one “where are we?”). The chorus’ high level of engagement has allowed Artistic Director Matthew Lewis to concentrate on dynamics, phrasing, and diction, rather than on note learning.

For example, in the opening and closing movements (“Selig sind”), we used dynamics to convey the sense of peace imparted to the blessed mourners and blessed dead. Honing our German pronunciation (forte consonants, piano vowels!) brought out the hair-raising reminder of mortality found in “Denn alles Fleisch.” The joyous fugues sprinkled throughout the piece (“Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand,” “Herr du bist wurdig,” to name a few) elevated the phrasing and highlighted the gorgeous blend of each vocal section as the theme swept through the different parts.

Rehearsing the Brahms Requiem for the JUNE 18, 2016 Summer Choral Festival concert. Photo: Blessing Agunwamba.

By the end of the second rehearsal, we have now gone through the entire piece in depth. Exploring such a beautiful composition with a committed group of individuals is an amazing summer treat. The melodious musicality that Dr. Lewis achieved from the group during this first read augurs an excellent concert. 

If you are not singing in the festival, come be uplifted and comforted on June 18 at 7pm at the Church of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue and 35th Street. The concert is free and will be followed by a choir benefit ($25 to attend the benefit).

Summer Choral Festival Featured on the Vocal Area Network



Beginning Tuesday, June 7, St. George's Choral Society will host a two-week choral intensive, with two rehearsals a week, culminating in a free public performance on June 18 at 7 PM of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem. This performance will feature Brahms's arrangement of the work for chorus and piano, four hands. Both the choral intensive and public performance will take place at The Church of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue and 35th Street, New York City.

I spoke with Dr. Matthew Lewis, Artistic Director, about his founding of the Summer Choral Festival when summer sings abound.

Laura Daly: What did you think was lacking in the usual summer sings that prompted you to start St. George’s Choral Society Summer Festival?

Michael Lewis: My goal is to allow the singers more time to become more comfortable and confident with the music. Summer sings are great fun, but it always seemed to me that singers would enjoy themselves more if we had more time to rehearse. So, the Summer Festival really allows for that. At the same time, there is a fun aspect to it. It’s summer time; we are all here to enjoy ourselves through music, and camaraderie. So, there is a certain comfortable aspect to it.

>>Read on at Van.org

Hear Us Perform "Sacré et Profane - Choral Music from Paris" on April 17

Artistic Director Matthew Lewis leading the choir at its April 13, 2016 rehearsal for "Sacré et Profane - Choral Music from Paris."

This Sunday, April 17, at 3 pm, St. George's Choral Society will perform "Sacré et Profane - Choral Music from Paris" at the Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Avenue at 35th Street.

This program features works of French song composers, performed a capella and with organ accompaniment. 

Claude Le Jeune's (c1528-1600) rhythmically vivacious Revecy venir du Printemps is a song with refrain, each verse adding voices, building momentum as the song progresses. Claude Janequin (c1485-1558) also composed Parisian chansons. Very creative and modern, even for listeners today, Le chant des Oiseaux has the singers mimic bird calls. Des pas dans l'allée is a somber setting by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) of a poem by Maurice Boukay. Saint-Saëns was an extremely popular composer, known for The Carnival of the Animals and many other works.

Among his students was Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), known primarily as a song composer. The Pavane is undoubtedly his most famous piece, originally written for piano, later scored for orchestra with optional chorus. Another composer famous for his songs is Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). The Chansons Françaises are clever, virtuoso settings of French folk songs for unaccompanied voices. The final work on the program is Jean Langlais' Messe solennelle. Blind from birth, Langlais (1907-1991) mostly wrote sacred music. His Messe solennelle, for organ and chorus, is a colorful and adventurous work, featuring advanced harmonic language combined with chant-like choral writing. It is often in the form of a dialogue between the organ and chorus.

We hope you will share this music with us on Sunday. Tickets ($30) are available online and at the door.

Apply for our 2016 Summer Choral Festival


Though it certainly doesn’t feel like it outside today, summer will be here before you know it. In preparation, we are now accepting applications for our 2016 Summer Choral Festival.

Beginning Tuesday, June 7, St. George's Choral Society will host a two-week choral intensive, with two rehearsals a week, culminating in a performance of Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem, featuring Brahms' arrangement of the work for chorus and piano, four hands, on Saturday, June 18 at 7:00 pm.

Participation costs $175.00 for those who apply early and are accepted and pay by May 8 and $225.00 for those who apply and are accepted and pay by June 2. In certain instances, financial aid may be available.

Learn more and apply.


Three Days To Go!

We're just three days away from our Fall Concert with Orchestra.

To get you in the mood for music, we've shared some photos from our final Wednesday night rehearsal on our Facebook page. Enjoy!

Have you bought tickets for the concert yet? You can get them online through Sunday morning, or at the door.

St. George's Choral Society Presents Mendelssohn's Lobgesang on Sunday, November 22, 2:30 PM

Design by Andrew Spina © 2015

St. George’s Choral Society presents a fall concert with orchestra on Sunday, November 22 at 2:30 PM. The program includes two spectacular works: Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, and Mendelssohn's monumental Symphony 2, Lobgesang.

Originally written for 16 solo singers, solo violin, and orchestra, the Serenade to Music is a setting of text from The Merchant of Venice, which discusses music. This lavish and strikingly beautiful work appears on the program at the request of one of our benefactors, whose mother died within the past year. This performance is in her honor, and will be sung by the Chamber Singers of St. George’s Choral Society, with professional soloists, to open the concert.

The primary work on the program is Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2, which he called Lobgesang (“Song of Praise”). Written in 1840, it commemorated the 400th anniversary of the invention of printing. With a running length of over an hour, it is the most substantial of all of Mendelssohn’s symphonies.

Lobgesang is scored for large orchestra, two soprano soloists, one tenor soloist, and chorus. It uses biblical texts—primarily Psalms—sung in German. From the thrilling opening statement by the trombones, the poignant duet for two sopranos (“Ich harrete des Herrn”—“I waited for the Lord”), the rousing “Die Nacht ist verganen” ("The night is departing") chorus, to the brilliant concluding chorus, this 13-movement piece has stunning audience appeal.

This performance features:

Sarah Brailey, soprano
Kate Maroney, mezzo-soprano
Marc Day, tenor

Sunday, November 22 at 2:30 PM
Church of the Incarnation
Madison Avenue at 35th Street
New York City

Tickets are $30.00, available online or at the door.

When Music Inspires Design

St. George’s Choral Society is fortunate to make use of the talents of Andrew Spina, who has designed concert images for us for the last decade. Many of his previous designs can be seen throughout our website.

Here are this year’s images, along with Andrew’s descriptions of his inspiration.

Design by Andrew Spina © 2015

The fall design interprets the theme of the Mendelssohn’s "Lobgesang": darkness to light. Since the piece celebrates the anniversary of the printing press, the text is in the font Gutenberg.

Design by Andrew Spina © 2015

This was about harmony and rhythm and the idea of modern stained glass. The repeating pattern over the idyllic French countryside both obscures the image and amplifies individual colors over others.

Design by Andrew Spina © 2015

This design explores layers of structure, where each successive layer adds complexity and detail. One must look beyond the ornate organic forms to see the dense forest at sunset...a dark romance that is not immediately apparent. 

Meet Our Fall 2015 Soloists

We look forward to performing with the following three soloists for Mendelssohn's Lobgesang at our Fall 2015 concert on November 22.

Sarah Brailey, Soprano

Sarah Brailey

Hailed by The New York Times for her “radiant, liquid tone,” “exquisitely phrased” and “sweetly dazzling” singing, soprano Sarah Brailey is in growing demand as a concert and chamber music artist. She previously appeared with St. George’s Choral Society in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass.

Highlights of Sarah’s current and recent seasons include Handel’s Messiah with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony, and Albany’s Cathedral of All Saints, Constance in Franz Joseph Haydn’s L’isola disabitata with the American Classical Orchestra, Steve Reich’s Drumming at Carnegie Hall (Zankel), Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder and the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 with the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, Alberto Ginastera’s Cantata para América Mágica and Stravinsky’s Les Noces with Julian Wachner at Trinity Wall Street, Handel’s Samson under the baton of Nicholas McGegan, Britten’s Les Illuminations with NOVUS NY, and numerous appearances with the Brooklyn Art Song Society and the Polydora Ensemble, a vocal quartet focused on German repertoire of the 19th century.

Sarah is a core member of Boston’s Lorelei Ensemble, an all-female vocal chamber music ensemble dedicated to the performance of new music. She is a frequent guest artist with the GRAMMY® Award-winning alternative-classical vocal band Roomful of Teeth. She has worked with composers such as John Zorn, Steve Reich, Merrill Garbus, Gabriel Jackson, Tarik O’Regan, Jesse Jones, Paola Prestini, Ralf Yusuf Gawlick, Scott Wheeler, and Doug Balliett.

Sarah has recorded with tUne-yArDs, John Zorn, Paola Prestini, Bang on a Can All-Stars (Julia Wolfe’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning work Anthracite Fields), and is featured on New York Polyphony’s GRAMMY®-nominated album Sing Thee Nowell. She can be heard on recordings released by Naxos, Tzadik, Musica Omnia, BIS, 4AD, Soundbrush Records, and VIA Records.

Sarah’s awards include first prize in the 2015 Madison Early Music Festival’s Handel Aria Competition and the Leopold Damrosch Award in the 2014 Lyndon Woodside Oratorio Solo Competition. She was a semi-finalist in the 2014 Concert Artist Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. Recent opera engagements include the American premiere of Hércules en el Mato Grosso, a new opera by Esteban Insinger, Pablo Ortiz’s Gallos y Huesos with The Americas Society, Stefan Weisman and David Cote’s The Scarlet Ibis with American Opera Projects, and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind at The Lincoln Center Festival.

Kate Maroney, Mezzo-Soprano

Kate Maroney

Recognized for elegant and versatile singing in oratorio and opera spanning the Renaissance to works by contemporary composers, Kate Maroney was recently featured worldwide in over 75 performances of Einstein on the Beach and made her Lincoln Center soloist debut with the American Classical Orchestra in Bach’s Mass in B-Minor. Kate has recently appeared as a soloist with Musica Sacra and New York City Ballet, Oregon Bach Festival, Anonymous 4, The Bangor Symphony, Clarion, Bach Collegium San Diego, American Symphony Orchestra at Bard SummerScape, Princeton Pro Musica, Yale Choral Artists, Sacred Music Sacred Space, Bach Vespers Holy Trinity, Ensemble Signal at the Lincoln Center Festival, Ekmeles, Mark Morris Dance Group, Vox Vocal Ensemble, St. Luke in the Fields, American Opera Projects, Berkshire Bach Society, Brooklyn Art Song Society, and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. In the 2015-2016 season, Kate will perform Missy Mazzoli’s Song From The Uproar at LA Opera and travel to South Korea for Einstein on the Beach. Kate teaches at Mannes NEXT (The New School) and holds degrees in music from Eastman, Yale and SUNY Purchase. www.katemaroney.com


Marc Andrew Day, Tenor

Marc Day

Marc began his music education at the Cathedral of the Madeleine Choir School in Salt Lake City, Utah. While studying at the Choir School, he performed two roles with the San Francisco Opera beside Frederica von Stade and David Daniels. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. While at UofI, he performed the title role in Bernstein’s Candide with the late Jerry Hadley performing the role of Pangloss. In addition to Candide, Marc performed the roles of Goro, Gastone, Paco (Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve), First Rock Singer (Bernstein’s Mass), as well as roles in The Coronation of Poppea and Purcell’s The Fairy Queen. Marc earned a Master of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music and performed the role of Tony from West Side Story with the School’s Opera Scenes. He currently serves in the professional choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, under the direction of Maestro Kent Tritle. He enjoys performing regularly with Musica Sacra, Clarion Society, Voices of Ascension, St. Ignatius Loyola, American Classical Orchestra, and other prominent choral ensembles within the greater New York City Metropolitan area. Most recently, Marc premiered the role of Wilbur Wright in Aaron Siegel’s Brother Brother, part of the Experiments in Opera series, which specializes in contemporary works.  In addition to developing his performing abilities, Marc serves as assistant to the president and liaison to the board of trustees at Manhattan School of Music.

Grant from New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA)

For the first time this year, St. George’s Choral Society applied directly to New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) for a Cultural Development Fund grant in support of our 2015–2016 season.

We are thrilled to announce that DCA has awarded us funding. This will help us to continue to provide three concerts a year to the community, and we hope the recognition will help us secure additional funding toward our efforts to include orchestra in at least one concert per year and to present our Summer Choral Festival free to the public.

2015–2016 Rehearsals Have Begun

St. George's Choral Society's first rehearsal of the 2015–2016 season. Photo by Richard Karman.

St. George's Choral Society's first rehearsal of the 2015–2016 season. Photo by Richard Karman.

Although September 9 was a warm, muggy day, the early evening found an enthusiastic group of choristers gathering at St. George’s Chapel for the first rehearsal of the 2015–2016 season.  Memories of chilly rehearsals in the dead of winter gave way to an appreciation of the Chapel’s air conditioning. Those who had not already done so online renewed their memberships and collected the scores for the fall. To help put names and faces together, Vice President Loraine Obler passed out name tags and began work on a member directory.

The rehearsal of Mendelssohn's "Lobgesang" began promptly with Artistic Director Matthew Lewis directing and Jim Bassi accompanying on the piano.

It’s not too late to sing with us! Contact stgeorgeschoralsociety@yahoo.com to schedule an audition on September 16 between 6:00 and 6:50 PM.

The schedule for the upcoming year looks to be challenging and exciting:

Fall Concert with Orchestra

Sunday, November 22, 2015, 3 PM
Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Avenue at 35th St

Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music (Chamber Singers)
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 2, "Lobgesang"

Lincoln Center Performances with the Paul Taylor Dance Company

March 16, 18, 30, and April 2
David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza

Our semi-professional choir, by audition and invitation, appears again this season in performances of Poulenc's Gloria with the Orchestra of St. Luke's at the Koch Theater.

Sacré et Profane - Choral Masterworks from France
Spring Concert with Organ

Sunday, April 17, 2016, 3 PM
Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Avenue at 35th St

Fauré: Pavane
Poulenc: Chansons Francaises
Langlais: Messe solennelle
And works by Le Jeune, Janequin, and Saint-Saëns

Summer Choral Festival

Saturday, June 18, 7:00 PM
Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Avenue at 35th St

Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem
Featuring Brahms' arrangement of the work for chorus and piano, four hands