Harlem’s Malcolm J. Merriweather Leads Dessoff Choirs Into 93rd season

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 opens its 93rd season with Multidimensional Magnificence: a one-night only performance at Riverside Church inspired by the many concerts produced by American composer/conductor Gregg Smith. His devotion to choral music was greater than almost any one of his generation.

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“No other conductor was as influential on other American choral conductors and composers than the great luminary Gregg Smith,” says Malcolm J. Merriweather, ninth Music Director and conductor of The Dessoff Choirs. Merriweather wrote the first complete works list for Smith, Now I Walk in Beauty, Gregg Smith: A Biography and Complete Works Catalog. During the second half of the 20th Century, Smith set the standard for professional choirs when he established the Gregg Smith Singers and was widely admired for his contributions to the field of contemporary choral composition through interpretation, commissioning, and recording.

Dedicated to introducing a new generation of listeners to rich choral traditions in urban spaces, The Dessoff Choirs will create a unique aural experience influenced by polychoral traditions of San Marco, Venice, Italy, as well as the stereophonic tendencies of Charles Ives. (Program details are below.) Adhering to Smith’s standard of rejecting the rigid two-dimensional paradigm and confines of the concert hall, Dessoff will perform spread around the church in multiple locations creating a surround-sound experience for audiences.

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The program includes the double choir Bach motet Singet dem Herrn, the evocative electro-acoustic pieces filament and Mille Regretz, and Smith’s If music be the food of love. The concert’s first half culminates in Victorian splendor with Parry’s Blest pair of sirens, accompanied by Michael Hey. As part of its season-long celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centenary, the choir honors Bernstein’s rich legacy by performing an arrangement by Robert Page of Make our garden grow from Candide. Steven Ryan weaves the program together playing excerpts from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

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. Please visit dessoff.org for more information.

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