Our History

NYChoral (New York Choral Society), founded in 1959, has become known for the quality of its performances and the diversity of its repertoire, which encompasses well-known choral masterworks as well as many compositions rarely heard in concert halls. NYChoral has presented eleven world premieres and has commissioned works by Paul Alan Levi, Morton Gould, Stephen Paulus, and Robert De Cormier.  Since becoming NYChoral music director in 2012, David Hayes has introduced our singers -- and audiences -- to many less often performed symphonic choral masterworks and to exciting works by contemporary composers.

Highlights of the recently completed  2015-2016 season included Christmas Around New York: NYChoral reached out to audiences throughout New York City with performances in the Bronx (Lovinger Theater of Lehmann College),  Staten Island (New Dorp Moravian Church), and a sold-out performance at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. In February, we presented Arvo Pärt’s Te Deum and Beethoven’s Mass in C at Carnegie Hall. In conjunction with that performance, NYChoral, The Mannes School of Music and the Arvo Pärt Project  presented Arvo Pärt Day.  This day-long celebration of the composer included live performances by NYChoral and the Mannes Orchestra, a showing of the film Adam’s Passion (a collaboration between Arvo Pärt and famed stage director Robert Wilson), and culminated in a panel discussion with insightful and engaging experts on the significance and influence of Arvo Pärt’s work. The season concluded in May with a performance of Handel’s Israel In Egypt at Carnegie Hall. One reviewer wrote that NYChoral “sang with agility and clarity in the fugues. Needless to say, they could also bathe the audience in rich legato sound.”

Guest engagements during the 2015-2016 season included NYChoral’s 22nd appearance at the Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala, broadcast on PBS, and an appearance with Andrea Bocelli at Madison Square Garden. The  NYChoral Chamber Singers participated in the staging of a radical reinterpretation of Mozart's The Magic Flute at 80WSE Gallery (in partnership with NYU Steinhardt and the Berlin-based CHEAP Kollektiv) and presented a concert featuring works of Dove and Ešenvalds at The New School's Stiefel Concert Hall.

The 2014-2015 season's Christmas Around New York included performances on Staten Island (Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden) and at St. Peter’s Church in midtown Manhattan. NYChoral presented two concerts at Carnegie Hall: Mendelssohn’s St. Paul in January and For Those We’ve Loved in April. This program included John Adams’ On The Transmigration of Souls and Hindemith’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d with The Mannes Orchestra.

NYChoral's 2013-2014 season featured Christmas at Carnegie Hall, the New York premiere of Pulitzer prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon’s The Singing Rooms with special guest violinist Jennifer Koh at Carnegie Hall, and Gustav Holst’s rarely performed Hymn of Jesus, also at Carnegie Hall.

In 2012-2013 NYChoral embarked on a new journey, proudly welcoming David Hayes as its new Music Director. Maestro Hayes’ inaugural performance was Berlioz’ L'Enfance du Christ at Carnegie Hall. That spring Maestro Hayes conducted a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony and Beethoven’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, also at Carnegie Hall.

The 2011-2012 season marked the 25th and final season with Music Director John Daly Goodwin. Performances included a December concert in Carnegie Hall entitled A Joyful Noise with Te Deums and Glorias by Haydn, Poulenc, Verdi and Puccini. The chorus returned to Carnegie Hall that April for American Reflections, an evening of works by American composers. Featured works were by Stephen Paulus, Morten Lauridsen, Charles Ives, and two compositions commissioned by the New York Choral Society: Robert De Cormier’s Legacy and Morton Gould’s Quotations.

In 2010-2011 our season included A Holiday Celebration with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey, of the legendary Peter, Paul and Mary folk trio, conducted by Music Director emeritus Robert De Cormier. In February the chorus performed Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle at the then newly renovated Alice Tully Hall. The season ended with a performance of Dvoƙák’s Stabat Mater in Carnegie Hall.

Guest Performances

NYChoral is frequently in demand as guest artists.

During the 2014-2015 season NYChoral appeared at the Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala, with Andrea Bocelli at Madison Square Garden, and with the New York Youth Symphony in a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in Carnegie Hall.  

In the 2013-2014 season the chorus appeared with American Ballet Theatre at the Koch Theater in Lincoln Center for three performances of The Tempest choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky and sang in the world premiere of Twilight of the Himalayas with the Detroit Symphony under the direction of Yong-yan Hu.

Guest performances during the 2012-2013 season included appearances at the Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala, with Andrea Bocelli at Madison Square Garden, and a performance of Verdi’s I Lombardi with Opera Orchestra of New York under the direction of Eve Queler in Avery Fisher Hall.

Appearances in the 2011-2012 season included September 11th memorial performances at Pace University and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the latter as part of the September Concert Foundation’s concerts throughout the city and the world. The chorus again appeared with the Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala in Avery Fisher Hall in November and in January the NYCS returned to Avery Fisher Hall in a performance of Wagner’s Rienzi with the Opera Orchestra of New York. In May the Chamber Singers of the NYCS performed a work by Mario Jazzetti in Avery Fisher Hall.

Other memorable NYChoral guest appearances include:

  • Carmina Burana with the Pennsylvania Ballet at City Center, Bellini's La Sonnambula and Puccini's Edgar with the Opera Orchestra of New York (2007-08 season);
  • Cilea's L’Arlesiana with OONY and Bruckner's Te Deum with the New Jersey Youth Symphony at NJPAC (2006-07 season);
  • 2005 appearance at Jazz at Lincoln Center in a gala for the Fortune 500, and a recording with Cirque du Soleil;
  • In 2004 the chorus appeared with Dancing in the Streets in the Grand Steps Project and with Buglisi/Foreman Dance in four performances of a commissioned score;
  • In May 2003, NYChoral appeared with American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House for seven performances of HereAfter, choreographed to the music of John Adams' Harmonium and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana;
  • NYChoral has also appeared with Andrea Bocelli at Liberty State Park, broadcast live on PBS; Celine Dion at Radio City; on NBC's Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America;
  • A Holiday Celebration with Peter, Paul & Mary has been broadcast on PBS since 1989 (nearly every year).

NYChoral has performed with the New York Youth Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony, Juilliard Symphony, Lincoln Center Festival, New Jersey Symphony, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, Opera Orchestra of New York, and at the 1998 Grammy Awards.

Guest conductors have included: Charles Barker, Leonard Bernstein, Sergiu Comissiona, Dennis Russell Davies, Placido Domingo, Asher Fisch, Lukas Foss, Ricardo Frizza, Yong-yan Hu, Eugene Kohn, Jaja Ling, Fabio Luisi, Zubin Mehta, Yehudi Menuhin, Steven Mercurio, John Nelson, Daniel Oren, Robert Page, Eve Queler, Julius Rudel, Robert Shaw, Leonard Slatkin, Patrick Summers, Robert Spano, Michael Tilson Thomas, Roger Wagner, and Hugh Wolff.

Tours

NYChoral frequently tours in the summer. In July 2014 members and their guests traveled to central Europe revisiting a region that, on the centennial of the outbreak of the Great War, has undergone a great deal of transformation in the last several decades. Beginning in Prague, the chorus then traveled to Vienna and performed Rheinberger's Messe in F at Sunday mass in St. Stephen's Cathedral, accompanied on its grand pipe organ. At our next stop in Budapest, we added American tunes from Copland and Shaw-Parker to perform a full, rousing concert at Matyas Templom atop Buda's Castle District. We then traveled to Romania, where we were honored to offer a performance outside Banffy Castle in Bonchida, a historic Transylvanian landmark recently added to the Most Endangered Monuments list and currently undergoing restoration.

In 2012 the chorus performed three concerts in Sicily: an outdoor concert in the Piazza del Duomo in Cefalù, a concert at the Basilica Minore Maria Santissima Assunta in Montalbano Elicona, and a performance at the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania.

In 2011 the chorus performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería in Mexico City. In 2010, the chorus sang in six concerts in Mexico: three concerts of classics, jazz, and mariachis, and three performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto, with the Orquestra Sinfónica de Minería at the Sala Nezahualcóyotl in Mexico City.

In 2008, the chorus traveled to Beijing at the invitation of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and the China Performing Arts Agency to perform three concerts in the Olympic Cultural Festival. In the summer of 2006, NYChoral members toured Italy, performing at the Chiesa di Santo Stefano in Venice and at the Basilica di San Marco. In 2005, members toured Shanghai where they performed Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Shanghai Opera Chorus and Orchestra in the "Singing for the Future" choral exchange project. In 2004, NYChoral had a triumphant tour of France, where we performed Mozart's Mass in C Minor and Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna at Les Flaneries Musicales d'Ete de Reims and at Chartres Cathedral. We also performed at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.

In October 2002, members of NYChoral performed the Chinese premiere of Mahler's Eighth Symphony in Beijing with a 1,000-voice chorus from four countries and a 180-piece orchestra. In July 2001, we performed Verdi's Requiem and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the Shanghai Grand Theater and a concert of all-American music at the New Century Theater in Beijing.

On earlier tours NYChoral visited Austria, the former Yugoslavia, Israel, and the Czech Republic.  The first NYChoral tour was in August 1984 to Greece, where the chorus performed in Athens, Santorini, and Crete.

Recordings

NYChoral (New York Choral Society) recordings include: Christmas is Coming; Randall Thompson's Frostiana and Testament of Freedom; Carmina Burana by Carl Orff; Mark Twain Suite by Paul Alan Levi; Christmastide by Donald Fraser, with Jessye Norman; A Holiday Celebration with Peter, Paul & Mary, arranged by Robert De Cormier; Floodland with The Sisters Of Mercy; Songs of Liberty, arranged by Robert De Cormier; Legacy and Four Sonnets to Orpheus by Robert De Cormier; and Kodaly's Missa Brevis and Vaughan Williams' Mass in G Minor.

Each summer since 1960 the chorus has produced a popular series of Summer Sings, open readings of the choral literature led by prominent conductors in the New York area. Sings provide a wonderful musical opportunity to the community and help attract new singers to the chorus.

Anniversary Anthem
for the New York Choral Society at 50

Music greets me at the gates of sleep,
where I slip from weary to weightless
in a boundless realm. So too with singing –
our shared dream of blessèd possibility,
where we as one become the lost chord,
a soaring cathedral of voice upon voice.
We sing and music courses through us –
a silver river that lifts us up and leads us
down to the deepest waters of our selves.
We sing together & we blend & we listen.
And the song makes us better than who we are.
If only enemies would learn lullabies,
our bad-dream world might be blanketed with peace.

– Toni Mergentime Levi,
NYCHORAL member since 1983

© Copyright 2009 Toni Mergentime Levi