NYCHORAL (New York Choral Society) first became “ambassadors of music” in 1984 and has since produced many tours to Austria, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Mexico and Romania.
Our main lessons learned are that everyone around the world loves American spirituals (and other American music, such as Gershwin and Bernstein), and that singing the native music of a country is beloved by audiences. For example, singing the Chinese popular song Da Hai (“The Sea”) made the biggest hit in Beijing.
Below are some highlights of past NYCHORAL tours:
In July 2014 members of NYCHORAL, conducted by Music Director David Hayes, 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 proceeded to Romania, where we were honored to perform outside Banffy Castle in Bonchida, a historic Transylvanian landmark recently added to the Most Endangered Monuments list and currently undergoing restoration.
In June-July 2012, 80 NYCHORAL members and 45 guests enjoyed a twelve-day tour to Sicily, including three very distinct concerts, conducted by then Music Director John Daly Goodwin, and a full tourist itinerary. The chorus performed works of Puccini and Verdi, as well as Haydn’s Te Deum and Lux Aeterna by the American composer Lauridsen. Local governments and businesses contributed to the concert funding. In Cefalù, the chorus performed for an enthusiastic crowd in the Piazza Duomo; the concert was broadcast on local television. In the hilltop town of Montalbano Elicona our music had a beautifully resonant and angelic sound: the concert took place in the Basilica with its pipe organ dating, in part, from the year 1400. In the final concert in Catania, we performed in the courtyard of the Cortile Platamone, a Norman Palazzo that now functions as a cultural center. Once again, the music took on a quite different sound, now reverberating and dynamic.
NYCHORAL was invited to return to Mexico City in August 2011 to join the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería (OSM) and several Mexican and American choruses for the spectacular conclusion of a two-year Mahler project with three performances of the Mahler Eighth, or “Symphony of a Thousand.” Through the support of Fomento Educacional, A.C., thirty singers from NYCHORAL were able to take advantage of this exciting invitation. Fomento Educacional’s mission to promote cultural exchange between Mexico and the United States helps support our goal to be “ambassadors of music” for New York City around the world.
In mid-July 2010 NYCHORAL embarked on an exciting and ambitious project to perform and record Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony, or “Resurrection,” in Mexico City. These performances were part of the two-year Mahler project of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería (OSM), Carlos Miguel Prieto, music director (a 2009 Grammy nominee). In 2010 and 2011 all the Mahler symphonies will be performed and recorded by Maestro Prieto and the OSM in the spectacular 2,000-seat Sala Nezahualcóyotl on the campus of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México -- a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This was an ideal year to visit Mexico as the country celebrated both the bicentennial of its independence from Spain and the centennial of the Revolution of 1910, and during this important anniversary year all OSM concerts featured music of Mexican composers. Our performances of the “Resurrection” Symphony on July 15, 17, and 18, 2010, also included choral works of the renowned Mexican composer Carlos Chávez, La Paloma Azúl and A! Fredome, conducted by John Daly Goodwin, NYCHORAL Music Director Emeritus.
In June 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 Beijing and the coastal city of Qingdao. Performances during this 10-day tour included Itaipù by Philip Glass, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and a selection of traditional Chinese folk songs.
The chorus toured Venice in late June and early July. Performances included four a capella motets at a noon Mass in San Marco, and an orchestra concert with the Collegium Ducale Orchestra in the Church of Saint Steven (Chiesa di Santo Stefano). The repertoire included the Mozart Mass in C minor, Stravinsky’s Three Sacred Choruses, and a selection of spirituals arranged by NYCHORAL Music Director Emeritus Robert De Cormier.
18 NYCHORAL singers traveled to Shanghai to participate in a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah. This was part of a symposium to internationalize choral singing in China. Our singers sang with students from the Shanghai Conservatory and the chorus of the Shanghai Opera. The orchestra was the Shanghai Opera Orchestra. The role of Elijah was sung by the Metropolitan Opera baritone, Tian Hao Jin. The tour was sponsored by the Committee of 100.
NYCHORAL toured France, appearing at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Flâneries Musicale d'Été in Reims and at Chartres Cathedral. At the latter two venues, we appeared with the Orchestre Symphonique Bell’Arte of Paris in Mozart’s Mass in C minor, Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, and a spiritual.
Based on the tour of China in 2001 (see below), NYCHORAL was invited to Shanghai and the Beijing Music Festival for two concerts: Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess Suite and, with six other choruses, the China premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8. For the latter, the China Philharmonic joined with the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra to form an orchestra of 180. The chorus numbered about 800, including a children's chorus. This tour was funded in its entirety by Prudential Financial Corp. and the Beijing Music Festival.
Our first tour to China, with 150 singers and nearly 140 guests, was a joint effort with the Hartford Chorale. The chorus sang an all-American program in Beijing (Copland, Bernstein) accompanied by the National Film Orchestra of China. The chorus then traveled to Shanghai for a performance of the Verdi Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra.
NYCHORAL traveled to the Czech Republic and Greece, appearing again at the Santorini Music Festival. The repertoire in Prague included Otce Nas by Leoš Janáček and a Haydn mass. Also on the program were selections from Guys and Dolls -- a big hit in Greece.
NYCHORAL members were participants in the Zimriya Festival of Choirs in Jerusalem, Israel. In the Sherover Theater, the chorus sang a program of Philip Glass, Morton Gould and Aaron Copland and also appeared at the Mann Theater in Tel Aviv, with orchestra, singing Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and at a moshav near Haifa.
The chorus toured to Eisenstadt, Vienna and Salzburg on the bicentennial of Mozart’s death. In Eisenstadt, where Haydn worked for many years, the chorus performed his Theresienmesse and Mozart’s Thamos, Re di Creta. In Salzburg, NYCHORAL sang Mozart choruses in the Salzburg Cathedral.
We toured what was then Yugoslavia (now Croatia) and Greece, where the chorus appeared at the Santorini Music Festival. The repertoire was the African mass, Missa Luba; parts of the Haydn Harmoniemesse; and folk songs from around the world. NYCHORAL performed at Dubrovnik, Hvar and on the island of Santorini.
NYCHORAL toured in Greece and Turkey.
The first NYCHORAL tour was to Greece, with performances in Athens, Santorini, and Crete.