Tuesday, March 26, 2013

CONCORA's Richard Coffey to Step Down After 2013-2014 Season

This news release was issued by CONCORA this morning:

HARTFORD AND NEW BRITAIN, CONN. (March 25, 2013) — After a distinguished four-decade tenure, Richard Coffey, who founded CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists) as the region’s first all-professional choir in 1974, will step down from the post of Artistic Director at the conclusion of the 2013-2014 season. CONCORA’s Board of Directors will launch a national search for CONCORA’s next Artistic Director, with the expectation that Mr. Coffey’s successor will be in place to lead the ensemble for the 2015-2016 season.

  “My decision to step down is made at a time when, thanks to the strength and dedication of CONCORA’s staff and Board of Directors, the organization is in good financial health and thriving under strong leadership,” said Mr. Coffey. “My departure is one of choice that permits CONCORA, as it celebrates its fortieth season, to do so with an eye to new artistic leadership.”

“With appreciation, gratitude, admiration, and not a little sadness, we accept Maestro Coffey’s decision to step down from the post he has held with distinction for so long,” said Sarah Hager Johnston, President of CONCORA’s Board of Directors and a CONCORA singer. “Over four decades, he has brought CONCORA to a pinnacle of artistic excellence, the culmination of forty years of consistently superb leadership. Thanks to Richard Coffey and CONCORA, the choral arts are recognized as an essential element of Connecticut’s cultural tapestry. We will honor Maestro Coffey by celebrating his final season, by supporting CONCORA during the upcoming transition, and by sustaining CONCORA's excellence, and his legacy, long into the future.”

In a message to CONCORA’s singers, Mr. Coffey wrote, “Working with and performing with CONCORA has been a constant delight, all made possible by your incomparable roles as performers in this, the region’s first all-professional concert choir. We have many rich and rewarding memories, and we have moved many minds and hearts in our audiences, both near and far.”

A search committee will be named in April. Final candidates for the post of Artistic Director will conduct CONCORA in public concerts during the first part of the 2014-2015 season, and distinguished guest conductors will lead the ensemble in the latter half of that season.

To provide support and to ensure continuity during the leadership transition, the Board has developed a three-year transition plan and named a special transition team, led by Robert Bausmith, CONCORA’s Vice President of Business Operations. CONCORA recently adopted a new three-year strategic plan and completed an organizational review, and continues to expand its Board of Directors.

With the support of South Church, New Britain, Richard Coffey founded the South Church Choral Society, as CONCORA was then known, in 1974, and the ensemble quickly gained a reputation as the region’s premier vocal ensemble. Under Mr. Coffey’s direction, CONCORA has excelled in the presentation of the most challenging and rewarding choral repertoire, including and especially the works of Johann Sebastian Bach and of contemporary composers. CONCORA’s critically-acclaimed annual presentations of the music of Bach with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra are a beloved tradition for the region’s music lovers. In his final performance with CONCORA in March 2014, Mr. Coffey will lead CONCORA and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor.

Under Mr. Coffey’s leadership, CONCORA has established important educational and outreach programs that offer memorable, life-changing musical experiences to thousands of singers from across the region. CONCORA-to-Go, a professional vocal quartet, takes choral music into the public schools, especially to communities where music programs are under-supported. The Extraordinary Concert Series, established in 1993, brings together select high school and college choirs to rehearse and perform with CONCORA’s professional singers. The CONCORA Summer Festival, now in its 15th year, brings together amateur singers, from high school age to adult, to work with Mr. Coffey and CONCORA singers over the course of a week to prepare and perform great choral masterworks. For the 2013 CONCORA Summer Festival, which will be the last one he will lead as CONCORA’s Artistic Director, Mr. Coffey has selected a single work, the beloved German Requiem by Johannes Brahms.

“Thanks to Maestro Coffey’s vision and dedication, CONCORA is widely acknowledged as the standard-bearer for the choral arts in our region,” said Ms. Johnston. “With CONCORA, he has established the highest artistic standards for the performance of choral music; mentored young professional singers and choral conductors; commissioned new choral works; and brought to our community beautiful choral music that, if not for CONCORA, might never be heard.”

To honor Mr. Coffey’s legacy, CONCORA’s Board of Directors will establish, in the fall of 2013, the Connecticut Choral Artists Endowment Fund in Honor of Richard M. Coffey, to support the commissioning of new choral works, and to underwrite live performances and recordings of contemporary classical masterworks.

“As we enter this transition, unprecedented in CONCORA’s history, we acknowledge with gratitude Maestro Coffey’s extraordinary vision and achievements, sustained over forty remarkable years and countless uniquely memorable concerts,” said Ms. Johnston. “He will be sorely missed, but he has laid a firm foundation for CONCORA’s future, and we look forward to celebrating, sustaining, and perpetuating CONCORA’s artistry for decades to come.”

About CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists): Acclaimed as Connecticut’s premier professional choir, CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists) presents masterful performances of the world’s finest choral music. “CONCORA, acknowledging that music transforms and enriches people's lives, perpetuates and performs with excellence choral music of the highest quality for the broadest possible audience.” This mission represents a commitment to the Connecticut community and to artistic excellence, masterful performances, and educational enrichment.

Since its founding in 1974 by Artistic Director Richard Coffey, CONCORA has held a unique place in the arts community as Connecticut’s premier professional choir, and has built an extraordinary reputation for artistic excellence throughout New England. CONCORA is the recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award, in recognition of remarkable artistic achievement and contributions to the arts in Connecticut.

The ensemble’s versatility is demonstrated in its wide range of repertoire, from the great choral masterpieces to newly-commissioned compositions, including arrangements of folk music, spirituals and popular music. The roster of singers yields performing groups appropriate to the repertoire, ranging in size from four to forty or more voices. Choral music has the power to cross cultural boundaries and to move hearts, and CONCORA’s mission to reach a broad and diverse audience extends not only to the choral aficionado, but also to those who may be touched by the beauty of the choral art for the first time.

CONCORA’s educational outreach program includes several highly successful programs. For children, the CONCORA-to-Go quartet presents an interactive, multicultural program, “Around the World in Music,” performed in area elementary schools and public libraries. CONCORA’s Summer Festival offers adult singers from the community and select high school and college singers an opportunity to join with CONCORA in rehearsing and performing great choral works. CONCORA extends special invitations to other choruses, especially children’s, high school and college ensembles, as a regular part of its concert programming.

The ensemble has appeared often with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and enjoys an ongoing collaboration, annually performing the works of J.S. Bach. CONCORA has also performed on many occasions with Orchestra New England, and with them recorded The Six Motets of J.S. Bach in 2000. CONCORA served as the resident chorus of the esteemed Bard Festival with the American Symphony Orchestra, Leon Botstein, Director. The chorus has performed in concert with Chanticleer, the Gregg Smith Singers, John Rutter’s Cambridge Singers, and Bobby McFerrin. CONCORA provides professional vocal section leaders to the Hartford Chorale, and the two choirs have often joined to perform with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

CONCORA made its New York debut at Trinity Church, Wall Street in 1998 with A 75th Birthday Tribute to Ned Rorem, who called CONCORA “the finest chorus in America.” CONCORA’s recording of Rorem’s choral works, Sing My Soul, received national acclaim in the Choral Journal. CONCORA has performed widely in New England, including invitational appearances at the American Masterpieces Choral Festival sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, and at national and regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists. In addition, there have been frequent appearances at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, First Night Hartford, and Aetna First Thursdays sponsored by the Greater Hartford Arts Council. In July 2013, CONCORA will be featured as the invited professional choir at the Regional Conference of the American Guild of Organists in Hartford, Connecticut.

CONCORA has produced ten recordings: Made in USA, A Sacred Sampler, Christmas with CONCORA, Christmas in Our Time, A Retro Christmas with CONCORA, Sing, My Soul, featuring the choral works of Ned Rorem, The Six Motets of J.S. Bach, The Men of CONCORA, Songs and Stories of Liberation, and, in 2012, In Delightful Company.

About Richard Coffey: Richard Coffey, Artistic Director of CONCORA, is one of New England’s principal choral conductors. He founded CONCORA, Connecticut Choral Artists, as a professional vocal ensemble in 1974. Mr. Coffey is Minister of Music at South Church in New Britain, where he conducts a choir of professional and amateur singers and serves as Artistic Director of its Music Series, which annually presents concerts by visiting artists. He is also Music Director of the Hartford Chorale, the region’s principal symphonic chorus.

In frequent demand as a chorusmaster, Mr. Coffey has prepared choruses for many orchestras and festivals including the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra New England, the Springfield Symphony, the New Britain Symphony, the Waterbury Symphony, the Bard Music Festival, and the Harkness Summer Music Festival. For five seasons, Mr. Coffey was chorusmaster of the Connecticut Opera Association.

Mr. Coffey has served as a Visiting Artist in Choral Music at the Hartt School, University of Hartford, where he conducted the Hartt Chamber Singers and taught graduate seminars in choral literature. He has served on the faculties of SummerTerm at Central Connecticut State University, the President’s College of the University of Hartford, the Colby Church Music Institute in Waterville, Maine, and the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

Mr. Coffey has served on the boards of directors of the New Britain Symphony, the Hartford Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and Chorus America, the national choral service organization based in Washington, D.C. He also serves regionally as adjudicator and clinician for keyboard and choral competitions and festivals. He served for five years on a panel of advisors to the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. Mr. Coffey often makes presentations at regional and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, Chorus America, and the American Guild of Organists, and writes reviews for Choral Journal.

Mr. Coffey holds degrees in music from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the School of Sacred Music of New York’s Union Theological Seminary. He was awarded France’s “premier prix” in organ performance following studies with organist Marie–Claire Alain.

In 1992 Mr. Coffey was named Choral Director of the Year by the Connecticut Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association. In 2007 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance and a Major Achievement Award by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, in recognition of outstanding and inspiring artistic leadership. Mr. Coffey was the 2009 recipient of the Alfred Nash Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award, presented annually by Choral Arts New England to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to choral singing and its culture within New England.

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