James Davis Jr. and the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir

james-davis-jr-headshot-bwJames Davis Jr. is Director of Music Ministries & Fine Arts at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City. Well-versed in a wide variety of musical styles, he has supervised productions at Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Apollo Theater. He has also produced and arranged music for both film and television, including Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer and a State Farm Insurance commercial commemorating the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, and has collaborated with legendary artists including Ashford & Simpson, Alicia Keys, Jessye Norman, John Legend, Lyle Lovett, Richard Smallwood and Wynton Marsalis.

Davis will be conducting the renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir in a performance at the Continue reading

Hannah Grasso on Becoming a Conductor at a Very Young Age

Version 2Hannah’s prodigious musical talent was obvious from the day she enrolled in United Choir School (UCS) at age 11. She had perfect pitch, an excellent sense of rhythm, and an innate musicality that set her apart from the crowd. She quickly rose through the ranks of UCS, earning a spot in the most advanced division of the Elm City Girls’ Choir (ECGC) after just two years. As a member of that rigorous ensemble, she got to perform complex works by composers like Krzysztof Penderecki and Augusta Read Thomas; but, in truth, she had little difficulty learning even the most sophisticated repertoire, given her brilliant mind and “ears of steel.”

What did turn out to be a formidable challenge for Hannah was stepping onto the podium to conduct her peers long before she was old enough to get a driver’s license. Suddenly the set of skills that she had so handily mastered as a singer were insufficient for the tasks at hand, and she found herself at the beginning of Continue reading

Christopher Shepard, CONCORA’s New Artistic Director

Chris Shepard vertical colorThe Connecticut-based professional choir, CONCORA, recently named internationally-renowned Bach scholar, Dr. Christopher Shepard, as its new Artistic Director, following the retirement of founder, Richard Coffey. CONCORA is producing a unique Bach Festival this month, which will culminate in a performance of the St. John Passion on March 20, 2016 at 4:00pm at Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford. Tickets are available here.

I conducted the following interview with Dr. Shepard in 2015 shortly after he accepted the position with CONCORA:

Congratulations on your appointment as CONCORA’s new Artistic Director! What is most exciting to you about assuming that post? Continue reading

Brad Wells & Roomful of Teeth

brad-wellsIn just a few short years, the innovative vocal octet, Roomful of Teeth, has rocketed to international stardom. Since coming together in 2009, the group has been greeted with riotous acclaim, taking home the 2014 Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for its self-titled début album and earning a 2016 Grammy nomination for its latest album, Render. The brainchild of Founder & Artistic Director, Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth has been hailed as “a tour de force of vocal mischief-making,” “Glee on acid,” and even “the future of vocal music.” The fame and praise are well deserved — the group’s arresting blend of technical precision and creative daring is unique on the vocal music scene. I am always astonished not only by the incredible sounds that these singers produce, but also by Continue reading

Richard Coffey’s 40 Years with CONCORA

Rick CoffeyIt would be difficult to overstate the impact that Richard Coffey’s work has had on the choral music scene in Connecticut over the past four decades.  His visionary leadership, commitment to artistic excellence, and dedication to community outreach have played vital roles in raising the bar for choral singing statewide.

Coffey has held several prominent positions, including Director of Music at New Britain’s historic South Church and Music Director of the Hartford Chorale, but he is probably most widely known for his work as Founding Artistic Director of CONCORA, one of New England’s few Continue reading