Voices from the Choir Loft

symphony chorus2The Jacksonville Symphony is honored to have a great community chorus under the direction of Donald McCullough. The one-hundred and forty members are all volunteers who undergo a rigorous audition process to participate.
Two upcoming concerts: Holocaust Cantata: Songs From the Camps, on May 4, and the closing weekend Florida Blue Masterworks performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, will highlight the talents of  the Symphony Chorus as well as speak to the incredible power of music.
Founded thirty-one years ago by past Music Director Roger Nierenberg, the chorus is designed to sing over the orchestra. “I look for voices that have focus and ring to them and that are sizeable enough to add to the sound we are trying to achieve,” says McCullough.
Some of the factors that go into the selection of choral members include their ability to sing in tune, their flexibility, range, diction and innate sense of musicality.
McCullough became chorus director of the Jacksonville Symphony in 2012. Previously, he was the director of the Master Chorale of Washington in the John F. Kennedy Center Concert Hall for more than a decade. A native of Jacksonville, he returned home, and in November 2014 he led the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus in its first appearance in Carnegie Hall, singing the Holocaust Cantata.
That piece of music will be making its Jacksonville debut on May 4 at 8 p.m. in Robert E. Jacoby Hall at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.
The story behind McCullough and the Holocaust Cantata actually starts in Washington. McCullough learned that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was in possession of the Aleksander Kuliesiewicz archive, the largest existing collection of music composed in the Nazi concentration camps. Kuliesiewicz was interred at Sachsenhausen during World War II, and after he was released he remembered songs he wrote and those of fellow prisoners. After the war, he traveled Europe recording hundreds of hours of interviews with former prisoners in order to preserve their music.
McCullough engaged a young Polish translator, Marcin Zmudzki, to transcribe the mountain of material. Along with lyricist Denny Clark, they worked to create music for a twenty-four voice ensemble, accompanied by piano and cello, that premiered in 1998 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. In 2004, McCullough commissioned a symphonic version of the work. It premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2004.

Read MoreArticle written by Amy Rankin

Author: Arbus

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