Attend a Summer Choral Festival Without Leaving New York City

Have you considered participating in our Summer Choral Festival? A new interview with Artistic Director Matthew Lewis by Vice President Claire Marinello answers all your questions about the Festival and gives insight into the process and repertoire:

Claire Marinello: How does the Summer Choral Festival work?

Matthew Lewis: Basically, it’s a way of attending a summer choir festival without leaving New York City. A sort of “staycation” for choral groupies. There are wonderful opportunities to leave New York to attend choir festivals, but this one allows people to continue their summer routine while participating in a two-week intensive workshop with a performance at the end.

For me, it started when we used to host “summer sings.” These were evenings when we would gather to read through a big choral piece, often with a guest conductor. The singers had so much fun, but often wished they could get to know the piece a bit better, allowing them to enjoy it more. So, we started this festival with that thought in mind. After four rehearsals, the singers know the piece better than they would with only one reading! Not to mention we have professional section leaders, which really helps. The result has been wonderful – an outstanding choral sound after only two weeks.

CM: This year’s program consists of Aaron Copland’s In the Beginning and Randall Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom. Why did you choose those two pieces?

ML: We are in our bicentennial year, so I thought it would be great to pay homage to two American composers. Furthermore, since people enjoy singing so much, a program of unaccompanied music seemed due. Randall Thompson came to mind immediately, as one of the most significant American composers of choral music. The Peaceable Kingdom is a wonderful work, not performed very often, that I am certain singers and audience will enjoy. And, of course, Aaron Copland is one of the great American composers. His In the Beginning is a masterpiece for unaccompanied chorus with alto solo. The two share some similarities, but are varied enough to offer a great program.

I should also add that the Church of the Incarnation is a great space for a cappella music. The acoustic is warm for chamber music without being too distant. It’s not a cathedral acoustic, but one that allows the audience to hear what is going on with a warm acoustic enhancement.

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Every Night I Walk Home Singing

Rehearsals for our Fall 2016 concert began this past Wednesday, September 7. Our new and returning members arrived excited to learn the repertoire for our November 20 concert: Berger’s Brazilian Psalm (to be sung by auditioned chamber singers); Ginastera’s Psalm 150; Kodály’s Missa Brevis; and “When We Were,” a commissioned work by Pauline Kim Harris for choir, organ, cello, and soprano.

Artistic Director Matthew Lewis and the choir at the first rehearsal of the 2016–2017 season.

I asked several members what they enjoy about singing with St. George’s Choral Society. Here are their replies:

“What I like the most about singing with St. George's Choral Society: [Artistic Director] Matthew [Lewis] and my fellow soprano ones! He never gives up on us and is always challenging us to be better, and they understand that the struggle is real but the result is sweeter.” – Blessing Agunwamba, Soprano

“I've been in St. George's Choral Society since 2008, and I treasure my time singing with the group. Taking my mind off of work and singing beautiful music every week with wonderful people is really a pleasure. I look forward to every rehearsal!” – Zac Rider, Bass

“I am so happy to be back after a taking a break last season! Singing with St. George’s Choral Society is a pure joy. The music is beautiful and well chosen and it's exciting to work with professionals, like Matthew and our ringers. But the best parts are that our choir has its own eccentric character, our director has a hilarious sense of humor, and we have fun learning complex pieces and lifting our voices together. Choir practice has a way of putting every thing else in perspective. Every night I walk home singing.” – Cara Hoffman, Soprano

It isn’t too late to join these members and sing with the choir. Contact to schedule an audition.

If you can’t sing with us this fall, we hope to see you at our first concert of the season on November 20 at 3 pm at the Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Avenue at 35th Street.

Robert Page, 1927–2016

Robert Page at St. George's Choral Society's 2012 benefit.

Robert Page at St. George's Choral Society's 2012 benefit.

Artistic Director Matthew Lewis and Robert Page at St. George's Choral Society's 2012 benefit.

Artistic Director Matthew Lewis and Robert Page at St. George's Choral Society's 2012 benefit.

Our Artistic Advisor, Robert Page, died peacefully this past Sunday. He had gone into the hospital about a month ago, and was eventually moved into hospice.

As many of you know, Robert was a great friend and mentor to me. He was very involved in the development and growth of our choir, constantly checking in on our events and progress. I visited him in Pittsburgh several times a year for the past 11 years, working on scores with him, seeking advice for repertoire, and fine tuning my conducting skills. He even came to New York a few years ago to meet with our board and to speak at our spring benefit.

I last saw Robert this past April, for his 89th birthday. He was a tireless, energetic persona choral conductor of great influence in this country.

His obituary was published this morning. 

We will certainly miss this wonderful man and artist, but I am forever grateful for all he did to influence me as a musician.

Our 2015–2016 Season

We are thrilled to share our 2015–2016 season with you. Here is how Artistic Director Matthew Lewis describes our fall and spring repertoire:

Fall Concert (with orchestra)

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, opus 52, "Lobgesang"

Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music

This "choral" symphony by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy is one of the highlights of the choral repertoire. It was composed in 1840 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of printing. It is a symphony cantata, on sacred texts, for choir and soloists, with full orchestra. The movements are performed consecutively, without pause, to great dramatic impact. This piece will entice the experienced choral singer to participate, as it is a thrill to sing. Our chamber singers will perform Vaughan Williams’ “Serenade to Music.”

Spring Concert (with organ)

Choral Works from Paris - Sacred and Profane

Poulenc: Chansons Francaise

Langlais: Messe solennelle

This unusual program features works of 20th century composers Francis Poulenc and Jean Langlais, who both lived in Paris. Poulenc's pieces are a cappella settings of French folk songs. They are extremely well crafted, difficult to sing, and wonderful to hear. And they are rarely performed. These will be sung by the chamber singers. Langlais was a blind organist composer, who wrote in a more modern vocabulary. His thrilling setting of the Mass is for a big choir, with a virtuoso and very well-written organ part.