The six year mark

September 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, New York Polyphony!

Here it is– 6 years to the day since we as a group first opened mouths to sing. Craig Phillips, founding baritone Scott Dispensa and I put some of Denis Stevens’ editions of the Worcester Fragments on their feet at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Times Square for the Solemn Mass on Holy Cross Day, September 2006. An auspicious beginning to what has become a truly unbelievable experience.

Since then, we’ve sung in 26 States (30 by the end of 2012!) and 6 countries with France and Germany just over the horizon for the 2012-13 Season. Our 100th concert will be given this November 29th in Virginia Beach, VA.

For those of you who don’t know “our story”, here goes: our first producer, Malcolm Bruno and I met on Monday in Holy Week of 2006. He was interested in some music to accompany a collection of medieval mystery plays which he was to record for Public Radio International for Christmas 2006. Meanwhile, Craig, Scott, tenor Geoffrey Silver and I had been pining for an opportunity to sing together outside of our myriad choral gigs.

Together with Ruth Cunningham of Anonymous 4, the always lovely Elizabeth Baber, and my wife Emilie Williams, the four of us put together a rough and ready collection of recordings at St. George’s, Stuyvesent Square in October of 2006 in between squeals of neighborhood school children, idling motorcycles, and humming ice cream trucks. (Our first lesson in Manhattan noise.) Those early tracks became the framework for what was to become our Avie Records CD I sing the birth: Parsons’ “Ave Maria”, Leighton’s “Lully lullow thou little tiny child” and a setting of “Nunc dimittis” by our new friend Andrew Smith.

Since then, a lot has happened. Scott and Geoffrey have embarked on new adventures and now Chris and Steve soldier on brilliantly in their stead. To date, we’ve made 4 recordings. We’re happy to report that we go back to Sweden in January to record our 5th! This time around it’s Masses of Byrd, Tallis, and Plummer with new pieces by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Gabriel Jackson, and our faithful friend Andrew Smith.

I could go on and on with our history but I’ll be brief with a few bulleted and unapologetically random memories of the past 6 years:

  • First read of Andrew Smith’s “Veni Redemptor Gentium” in January 2007
  • Geoffrey Silver’s skill at packing a trunk – Tetris genius!
  • Chris Herbert ordering cobb salads from sea to shining sea which in turn reminds us all of the $19 baked potato in Topeka, KS
  • listening to Scott Dispensa play Ben Folds “Silver Street” in the nave of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine during the Tudor City sessions
  • our little red house in Bergshamra, Sweden for our BIS recording sessions
  • getting kicked out of Slane Castle grounds in Ireland before our European premiere
  • appearing on BBC Radio 3’s “In Tune” and our excellent pub crawl after our London debut!
  • And of course, lots of dives, fast food and bowling

Here’s hoping the next 6 years are as fulfilling, eventful and unpredictable.

Yours truly,