Judith Clurman on "Beyond Broadway: Composers Go Choral"
by Dan Dutcher and Nicole Guberman for Vocal Area Network
Posted April 3, 2015

Beyond Broadway: Composers Go ChoralOn April 8, 2015 at 7:30 PM, Essential Voices USA (EVUSA) will present "Beyond Broadway: Composers Go Choral" at the DiMenna Space for Classical Music, 450 West 37th Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues), New York City. The evening will feature ensemble music and conversation with composer/lyricists who have worked closely with conductor and music director Judith Clurman and her Essential Voices USA. Guests attending include Sheldon Harnick, Larry Hochman, Andrew Lippa, Richard Maltby, Joshua Schmidt, Stephen Schwartz, Lynne Shankel, David Shire, Georgia Stitt, Jonathan Tunick, and Maury Yeston. Midge Woolsey will host the evening. Tedd Firth will be at the piano. For tickets please visit www.essentialvoicesusa.com, or purchase them at the door (cash only). Dan Dutcher and Nicole Guberman spoke with Judith Clurman about the event.

Dan Dutcher and Nicole Guberman: What led to the formation of this event? How did you decide to feature works by these particular composers?

Judith Clurman: There was one piece that I really needed to conduct: the world premiere of the 2009 edition of Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Marvin wrote the work for my Juilliard Choral Union in 2006, in honor of the Centennial Celebration of The Juilliard School. The piece, with text by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is very “classical.” Marvin and I edited this new version together. No one has ever heard it.

After receiving some funding, my chorus manager and I decided to organize a Composer Speaks workshop/concert and include music by other theater composers who have written for me and for choruses that I have conducted.  The Composer Speaks programs are somewhat informal events, where my chorus, Essential Voices USA, performs a piece a couple of times, the composer talks about their music, and the audience asks questions (or the moderator asks the composer questions about the piece). We have presented choral works and operas in this format by some pretty impressive composers in the past, including Shulamit Ran, Joshua Schmidt, Paul Schoenfield and Roberto Sierra. This time, we are presenting nine people who have contributed to the musical theater world, many of whom are my friends: Sheldon Harnick, Larry Hochman, Andrew Lippa, Joshua Schmidt, Stephen Schwartz, David Shire, Georgia Stitt, Jonathan Tunick and Maury Yeston. Tedd Firth, one of our city’s finest pianists in the American Songbook, will accompany.

DD and NG: What has the process been like for you and your chorus in preparation for the performance?

JC: Rehearsals are always fun and necessary. We have both professional and volunteers involved in this concert. Each piece is cast a different way. By that I mean that I needed to find the appropriate mix of singers for each work. Some music will be performed by 8 singers, some by 12, some by 24 and some by 50! After all, the music has to fit the chorus and the chorus has to feel comfortable with the music! We might also perform a piece in two different ways. You never know what can happen when the composer is in the room with you.

DD and NG: Is there an overarching theme present within these works?

JC: Some of the pieces are entertaining, some are patriotic, and some are about human rights and freedom.

DD and NG: Tell us about some of the composers and your experience working together.

JC: I have gotten to know some of these composers in different ways. Many on the list have written for me and for my choruses for concerts and some are some dear personal friends. I worked with a couple while I taught at The Juilliard School or prepared choruses for the New York Philharmonic or the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. And I have actually been on a stage or recording studio, conducting with Marvin Hamlisch, Sheldon Harnick, Larry Hochman and Stephen Schwartz! By the way, I am very excited that Midge Woolsey is our moderator. You might know her from her former work as an announcer on WQXR radio and PBS fund raising drives. Midge is a fantastic host (and a wonderful singer herself), and we are lucky to have her.

DD and NG: What will audience members walk away with at the end of the evening?

JC: Everyone on this list is special and has contributed major works to the musical theater canon. It is my hope that people will leave realizing that this group of composers and lyricists are capable of writing in many musical styles. Audience members might even be able to shake their hand at the reception and thank them for enriching their lives!

Dan Dutcher and Nicole Guberman work for Dan Dutcher Public Relations, which handles clients in classical, opera, pops, dance, theater and music festivals.