Greetings from Director of Choral Activities Andrew Clark

November 10, 2016
Greetings, Alumni and Friends!
With only a few weeks remaining in the Fall term, I can say that this has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling semesters of my time at Harvard. We began the 2016-2017 year by welcoming an incredibly talented and dynamic class of new singers, joining very strong returning groups from all of our ensembles. Our choruses have been working hard and building a culture of inclusion, sincerity, openness, and gratitude for singing and for those with whom we share it. Choral music continues to thrive and flourish at Harvard.
After our productive and galvanizing Fall retreats, we launched into our concert season, beginning with the Glee Club’s superb performance at Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium under the direction of my colleague Harris Ipock, the conductor of HGC this year. Next month, the Glee Club will embark on a five-week international tour
National Concert Hall in Taipei
through Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. This marks the first extended international tour for HGC since 2005. The ensemble increased the size of its membership by nearly one-third since last spring and, in short time, they have grown to embody the very best of the Glee Club tradition: singing with nuance, conviction, abandon, and focus. It will be thrilling to hear the group in concert when they return to Cambridge after singing numerous performances together during their time in Asia. The standards of excellence forged in the cauldron of an extended international tour continue to amaze me! I’m thrilled for the opportunity that HGC singers have before them, sharing their music with many communities and connecting with world-class ensembles. Be sure to follow their journey on social media!
The Radcliffe Choral Society and Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum launched their concert seasons in Sanders Theatre with a presentation entitled ONE MUSIC. The concert featured the world premiere of Robert Kyr's In the Name of Music, developed as co-creation with our students who submitted over 150 pages of reflections to a single question Dr. Kyr posed during a workshop last May: “Given the divisiveness that we are experiencing in society today and the challenges that you face in your own life, what is your greatest hope (or what are your greatest hopes) for the future?” In reflecting on our students’ responses, Dr. Kyr crafted a work that proclaims, in both text and music, the healing power of music as an embodiment of hope and renewal. His composition spun the thematic threads we wove together for the rest of our program: an eclectic tapestry of works from Victoria and Faure to Carole King and Stephen Sondheim alongside works from Sweden, Bulgaria, Brazil, and the American songbook. One Music celebrated the diversity of our musical lives and the common bonds of our shared humanity during these fall months fraught with anxiety and discord. More than ever, our choruses serve as an oasis of sincerity, empathy, and solidarity for our students.
We believe that access to artistic practice as a fundamental human right of expression is an essential tool to transforming society. In recent years, our groups have acted upon this conviction, whether it’s performing with others in dispossessed settings, as RCS did with Indonesian prisons, orphanages, and pediatric oncology clinics, partnering with local organizations committed to social justice, like the new Y2Y shelter in Harvard Square that has partnered with Collegium, or major concert projects that address difficult topics, such as those we explored with last season’s Considering Matthew Shepard, arts education in the 21st century must not only compel us to continue our pursuit of artistic excellence, but also harness the power of the arts as a conduit of transformation and compassion.
RCS at Pelangi School in Bali, Indonesia.
In December, we will present a community holiday sing in Sanders Theatre with the Harvard Glee Club, Radcliffe Choral Society, and the incredible SNAP Chorus from Lexington, made up of fifty adults experiencing disabilities who have a great deal to share with our students and audience. While the Glee Club tours Asia, RCS will be traveling to the Pacific Northwest from January 13-21, performing with women’s choruses in Seattle, including renowned youth and professional choirs, and will be visiting the PHAME arts community in Portland, Oregon that champions opportunities and possibilities for all artists, particularly those in our society who are often neglected and ignored. In April, all three of our groups will present the first Harvard performance of Michael Tippett’s secular oratorio A Child of Our Time (1941) with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and a guest chorus of alumni (more details on this to follow!). Tippett’s masterwork was a reaction to tragic events in Europe, including Kristallnacht, and deals with themes of oppression and reconciliation that remain vividly relevant today.
In addition to these upcoming performances by the Choruses, this Fall also marks the implementation of the Harvard Choruses New Music Project. This project is made possible by a New Music Concert Postergenerous contribution to support the creation of new music by Harvard students and the exploration of new music on campus by the Harvard Choruses. It will provide opportunities such as new work commissions for the Choruses and workshops, coachings, and performances of works for student composers by an annual professional vocal ensemble in residence.
Our exceptional student leadership have set the bar high this year, not only in their incredible dedication and success in running the auditions process, but also in their execution of operating the Choruses and building community and camaraderie with all group members. We have all benefited from their enthusiasm, leadership, commitment, and cooperation.
Finally, you may have noticed that our students decided to rebrand our choral program as the Harvard Choruses. We still love our Holden Chapel environs and certainly still maintain our historic connection to the “Holden” name in several ways, but identifying with our university will help build visibility for our groups around the world and open up new possibilities for creating a more inclusive, connected, and comprehensive vocal community at Harvard.
All of our endeavors are made possible by your support, advocacy, and enthusiasm. On behalf of the Harvard Choruses, thank you for your generosity and we hope to see you at a future concert!
Dr. Andrew Clark
Director of Choral Activities, Harvard University