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At the Summit: the Antioch Chamber Ensemble
by Luthien Brackett for Vocal Area Network
Posted May 8, 2003

Antioch Chamber EnsembleIf you have found yourself walking in downtown Manhattan of late, and happened to pass by the doors of historic Trinity Wall Street on a Sunday afternoon, you may have heard something that made you stop and go inside. That "something" is the eleven members of The Antioch Chamber Ensemble in rehearsal, and if the name is not familiar now, it soon will be. Antioch is quickly emerging as one of the New York metropolitan area's finest vocal ensembles. The group has appeared in performance for, among others, the Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert Series, the Trinity Noon-Day Concert Series and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Having recently completed a two-year residency at Trinity Wall Street, it is poised to begin a new residency at Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, New Jersey this fall.

Sometimes called America's answer to the Tallis Scholars of Britain, Antioch has been called "stellar" by the Princeton Packet, and "flawless" by the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Seeking to present as diverse a program as possible of the world's greatest choral literature, both sacred and secular, Antioch has performed works ranging from William Byrd's Mass for Four Voices to Morten Lauridsen's Mid-Winter Songs to Frank Martin's Mass for Double Choir, and all with a core group of only eleven professional singers, each conservatory-trained.

"We wanted to create a vocal ensemble that was as flexible and virtuosic as a chamber orchestra; a conductor-less group that performed music from every genre, with the highest degree of musicianship and expression. We wanted to bring a level of youth and accessibility to an art-form that had been perceived as stuffy and high-brow," says Antioch's artistic director, Joshua Copeland.

The four founding members of Antioch met in college. All were students of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. The quartet--Stephen and Kristin Sands, Luthien Brackett and Joshua Copeland--were also members of the Choir of St. Bernard's Church in the Somerset Hills. Impromptu rehearsals of Renaissance motets in the car to and from rehearsals soon turned into "real" rehearsals, and a burning desire to create a legitimate performing ensemble. Antioch debuted at the gala opening of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in 1997. Shortly thereafter, the group was holding master classes for young choral singers in conjunction with the Piccolo Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, an association that continues to this day.

The young singers went their separate ways for a time after graduating in 1998, but were reunited in the summer of 2000 and began to plan Antioch's future in earnest. The group's first goals were to complete a recording and establish a residency. Antioch's first demo attracted the attention of Dr. Owen Burdick, director of music at Trinity Wall Street and the conductor of its esteemed Trinity Church Choir. Antioch completed its first CD, With One Accord, in the fall of 2000, shortly after joining the Trinity Church Choir. It was there that the quartet met the singers that would eventually join Antioch's ranks to make it the eleven-member ensemble it is today.

Antioch's first feature performance in New York took place at the opening concert of the Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert Series on September 8, 2001 at the World Financial Center Marina, only three days before that area would be devastated by the attacks on the World Trade Center. As part of that series, Antioch performed free concerts in each of the five boroughs of New York. Antioch also held open rehearsals on Sunday afternoons in the sanctuary of Trinity Church, in part to make the rehearsal process more accessible to the general public.

Antioch has made the decision to reestablish a home base in New Jersey in part because of mounting state deficit concerns, which initially threatened funding for arts organizations.

"New York has so many fine arts organizations, as everyone knows. But some of the finest theaters, orchestras and choirs to be found anywhere are in New Jersey, and some of those organizations are in danger of losing their support. It's one way we hope to help revitalize the arts in our home state," says group administrator Luthien Brackett.

After returning from a performance for the Piccolo Spoleto festival on June 1, 2003, Antioch will return to New Jersey to perform a benefit concert with the New Jersey Youth Chorus on June 8 at 7:30 PM in its new home, Calvary Church in Summit (easily accessible from midtown New York via New Jersey Transit). Proceeds from the concert will directly benefit both organizations, and help ensure the survival of two of New Jersey's finest artistic institutions.

Antioch is hard at work on its highly anticipated holiday recording, Winter Songs, due this coming Christmas. Their upcoming season will include four concerts at Calvary Church and a planned tour through the Canadian Maritimes and the Southeastern United States.

The group's award-winning web site, antiochonline.com, features up-to-the-minute news and audio samples and offers information on where and how to see Antioch in performance. Antioch is available for concerts, special services, and workshops, and can be contacted through their web site.

Luthien Brackett sings with and is the administrator for the Antioch Chamber Ensemble. This is is her first article for Vocal Area Network.

Content Contact: Luthien Brackett.
Revision Date: January 16, 2003.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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