Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CONCORA – 35 Years of Choral Artistry

More than 35 years ago, Richard Coffey envisioned an all-professional chorus “to perpetuate and perform with excellence choral music of the highest quality for the broadest possible audience.” That vision became a vibrant and thriving reality, and today, CONCORA continues to enjoy a reputation as Connecticut’s premier professional choir, as borne out by a steady stream of critical praise, awards, and other accolades. The year of celebrations will have its culmination on this Sunday, November 22, 2009, at 4:00 p.m., when CONCORA presents a 35th Anniversary Concert at South Church in New Britain. (More information about this performance may be found at the end of this post.)

CONCORA was the 2003 recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award, given in recognition of “remarkable artistic achievement and contributions to the arts in Connecticut.” In 2007, CONCORA was honored as the featured professional chorus in the “American Masterpieces” festival in Providence, Rhode Island. And in 2009, Maestro Coffey received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alfred Nash Patterson Foundation, primarily for his founding and distinguished leadership of CONCORA.

A sampling of appreciation from composers, critics, and other musicians is testament to CONCORA’s enduring appeal and sustained excellence.

“[CONCORA is] one of the finest ensembles heard anywhere at any time.” – From the Springfield press, commenting on CONCORA’s 1976 debut in that city

CONCORA is “the finest chorus in America.” – Composer Ned Rorem, 1998

“. . . a model of choral artistry, meticulous preparation, musical commitment, and vocal sonority.” – Review of CONCORA’s CD Sing, My Soul, published in Choral Journal, April 2002

“From the beginning, they demonstrated the outstanding features of their singing: fine blending, crisp diction, and clear articulation. . . thrilling and nuanced moments. . . an eloquent chorus.” – The Hartford Courant, 2002

“Thanks for the recent performances by CONCORA. It makes all the difference. Sometimes I feel the world is unaware of today’s music. Then you appear, and everything changes.” – Composer Ned Rorem

“CONCORA, led by artistic director Richard Coffey, has delivered sublime performances of [Bach’s] works over the years.” – The Hartford Courant, March 22, 2005

“Fortunately, a spirit of innovation is still present in organizations such as CONCORA.” – The Hartford Courant, September 25, 2005

“Any presentation by CONCORA is well worth attending for anyone who has not heard this ensemble. They’re one of [our] prime jewels.” – Edward Cumming, Director, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra

“CONCORA’s absolutely exquisite performance of Two Emily Dickinson Songs…was completely satisfying to me in every way, with beauty, energy, precision, conviction, and, honestly, a perfect rendering of the music. . . I offer my heartfelt thanks to you and CONCORA for one of my most rewarding experiences as a composer.” – Composer Nancy Galbraith, commenting on CONCORA’s premiere of these works, 2007

“CONCORA is a priceless endeavor in our age of mostly vapid art.” – Composer Ned Rorem, 2007

“The Hartford Symphony Orchestra salutes Richard Coffey for outstanding and inspiring artistic leadership of the HSO’s two major choral partners, CONCORA and The Hartford Chorale.” – Major Achievement Award from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, September 25, 2007

The following quotes about CONCORA, excerpted from reviews and articles published over the years in The Hartford Courant, provide an objective assessment of CONCORA’s enduring appeal:

“…one of our region's priceless musical assets…”

“…CONCORA, our prized professional choral ensemble…”

“…the chorus itself is one of the finest entities this area has to offer…”

“…CONCORA plays an important role in carrying on the [choral arts] tradition with excellence…”

“…a distinguished history…”

“…the magnificent choral group CONCORA …”

“…utterly transcendent

“…The rise of CONCORA, which has described a steady upward arc of activity and ambition, is one of the truly amazing success stories of the region's arts scene.”

“…CONCORA, since its founding in 1974, has become a nationally known choral group…”

“…one of the premier musical forces in the state…”

This weekend, I’ll be singing in CONCORA’s 35th Anniversary Concert. Past and current members of CONCORA will spend the weekend rehearsing before presenting a concert on Sunday, November 22, at 4:00 p.m. at South Church in New Britain. CONCORA’s founder and Artistic Director Rick Coffey will conduct, and our founding accompanist, Larry Allen, will be in town to accompany the program and to offer some dazzling solo organ music, as well. There are still some tickets available; contact CONCORA now to reserve your seats. (I’ll be singing in the concert and preparing the program notes.) It will be a very special evening to celebrate a very special ensemble.

CONCORA 35th Anniversary Concert
Sunday, November 22, at 4:00 p.m.
South Church, 90 Main Street, New Britain, Connecticut
Tickets $10-$45.
Ask about becoming an “Anniversary Angel” -- this special ticket includes premier seating and an invitation to a private reception with CONCORA's artists on Saturday, Nov. 21.

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