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Harold Rosenbaum•Conductor

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Prime Time Editors Pick from England's Choir & Organ Magazine

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Katherine Hoover and Harold Rosenbaum:
Recording Her Unique Requiem for the Innocent

By Ronald E. Grames

HOOVER: Requiem for the Innocent
Audio CD
4TAY
Pre-order from 4TAY


When I interviewed flutist, poet, and composer Katherine Hoover for the July/August 2016 issue (Fanfare 39:6) I commented that Parnassus records had, with its several releases, touched on every aspect of Hoover’s art. I was wrong, as this new CD proves. Hoover is a fine composer of choral music as well, and thanks to a new recording initiative by Harold Rosenbaum and his acclaimed chorus, The New York Virtuoso Singers, we are now able to hear a good sampling of her small but significant body of work for vocal ensemble. That includes a striking setting of poetry by Walt Whitman, in the form of a liturgy for the dead, titled Requiem for the Innocent.

The last interview was with Hoover alone, but this time the composer asked that her partner in this project be a partner in the conversation. So we got a three-way email discussion of the music and the recording started even as the audio and documentation were in final preparations for publication.

Hoover wrote in her program notes that the Requiem for the Innocent was inspired by the attacks of September 11, 2001, but that she withdrew the work as a result of the military campaign against Baghdad in 2003. To start with, I asked her to say a little about her response to both events, and why she decided to pursue a recording of the Requiem, and a performance in concert, 13 years after it was withdrawn.

“I live in Manhattan, about seven miles above the 9/11 site. There was no avoiding the shock and consequences of this, and the first poem I actually had published is called ‘Dust’ and is about that tragedy. I began the Requiem not long after that. The poetry of Walt Whitman which I used was originally written about the Johnstown flood, which was also entirely human-caused, and killed about the same number as the 9/11 attacks.

“Then, when we began our tremendous bombardment in 2003 of a city whose country had nothing to do with 9/11, using that as some kind of strange excuse, I was appalled. Many, many more innocents were victimized. Morally, I could not mourn the 3,000 when my country was bombing tens of thousands who were just as innocent. So I put it away.

“The first outing of the Requiem was done under Tom Schmidt at St. Peter’s Church at 54th and Lexington Avenue, in the Citicorp Building. That was in November 2002, as part of a yearly Service of Remembrance. It was interspersed, in parts, in an immense church service of well over two hours. There was no continuity. As grateful as I was to the singers, the choir plus a few ringers, and to Tom, a fine musician and a terrific pianist, rehearsal time was very short, a prominent player got lost, and the acoustic was problematic.

“When I looked at it about two years ago, I realized I could dedicate the piece to all of these innocent victims. I think you have the words that I used: ‘I would now like to dedicate the work to the innocent victims of both bombings: the 3000 killed in the U.S., and the tens of thousands of men, women, and children who perished in the explosions and flames in Baghdad during March and April, 2003.’”

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Honoring the ‘Uphill Battle’ of a Champion of New Choral Music

By Roberta Hershenson, The New York Times, June 22, 2008

 

The conductor Harold Rosenbaum, recent recipient of the Laurel Leaf Award from the American Composers Alliance, sees choral composers today as a neglected species. Avocational or school choruses, which account for most choruses in the United States, are reluctant to tackle music they fear will be overly complex, he says. Music publishers fear contemporary works will be too atonal to sell. But Mr. Rosenbaum has made it his mission to open resistant minds and ears. “There’s so much wonderful contemporary choral music out there,” he said. “Composers are very frustrated.”

 

So it was not surprising that when Mr. Rosenbaum received his award in Manhattan on June 4 – presented in recognition of “distinguished achievement in fostering and encouraging the performance of new American works” – he deferred to composers themselves in his acceptance speech. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for gifted composers around the country,” he said from the stage. “I wouldn’t be here tonight if it weren’t for their unbelievable talent and passion for the music of our time.”

 

Mr. Rosenbaum, who lives in South Salem, joins a prestigious list of previous winners of the award, which has been given yearly since 1951. These include the Juilliard String Quartet and noted symphony conductors like Leonard Slatkin, Leopold Stokowski and George Szell. After the award ceremony, which was held after intermission during a concert of new music that Mr. Rosenbaum conducted, he asked, with a smile, to be allowed to “get back to work.” Then he led the New York Virtuoso Singers, a professional chorus he founded 20 years ago, in works by Louis Karchin, John Eaton and Steven R. Gerber, among others. Many of the composers on the program were in the audience.

 

After a rehearsal with the New York Virtuoso Singers a week earlier, Mr. Rosenbaum said he hoped the award, with its highlight on American music, would help build interest in music written today. “Maybe people will be more curious about this body of work, most of which is lying dormant,” he said. “Every time I’m onstage conducting great music, it makes up for the struggle.” He referred several times to the “uphill battle” he and other orchestral conductors face in championing new works.

 

At 58, with gray shoulder-length hair that neatly skims the back of his tuxedo, Mr. Rosenbaum seems to be thriving on his efforts. At any one time, he said, he is working on 15 to 20 projects involving one of his seven choruses. These include the 35-year-old Canticum Novum Singers, which performs music from Bach to Schnittke, and two choruses at the University of Buffalo, where, as a full-time faculty member, he spends one and a half days each week. Composers constantly send him new works; he has received nearly 3,000 scores during the past 20 years, he said, and has performed about 100 of them. Mr. Rosenbaum also edits a choral series established in his name by G. Schirmer, the music publisher. After the interview, he said, he was returning home to study an opera score by Marie Barker Nelson, one of Hindemith’s students, that he plans to conduct in 2010.

 

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Choral Conductor Leads Resounding Career  >

by Donna Shoemaker, from the alumni magazine of Queens College.



With his baton, Harold Rosenbaum ’72, ’74 MA directs both renowned soloists and amateurs, from youths to seniors, up dizzying choral heights. Over four decades he has sounded these high notes: choral conductor with 450-plus world premières and more than 1,500 concerts—almost 100 in Europe . . . founder of six choral groups and maestro of about 30 others . . . collaborator with more than 100 leading orchestras, opera companies, and other ensembles . . . associate professor of music at the University of Buffalo . . . faculty member at his alma mater (1972-1998) . . . namesake of the choral music series of the world’s largest music publisher, G. Schirmer Music . . . organist and choir director at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Katonah, NY . . . pianist, editor, composer, coach, consultant, and clinician.

pages from queens magazine

Rosenbaum “is not scared stiff of anything offbeat,” notes Allen Brings ’55, composer, pianist, and QC professor emeritus of music. Contemporary choral composers find in Rosenbaum and his New York Virtuoso Singers the ideal interpreters. This professional chamber choir, which he founded in 1988, is undaunted by their most complex compositions.

 

While he has commissioned 50 of today’s best choral composers, Rosenbaum also champions what he calls “the up-and-comers who need the money.” For his annual competition and from unsolicited stacks, each year he reviews 400 to 500 scores—8,500 to date. “I get immense pleasure in finding a jewel,” he says. “I always call the winners because I like to hear their happiness.” Rosenbaum “has perfect pitch of a very highly refined nature,” says Raymond Erickson, QC professor emeritus of music, early music authority, and harpsichordist. “That’s one of the reasons he can take on this extremely difficult music—he can hear it in his head.” Adds Erickson, “Intense, uncompromising, Rosenbaum lives for the art and not the applause. There are few people in the artistic world who are so fundamentally self-effacing.”

 

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Harold Rosenbaum Featured in AtBuffalo Magazine

Harold Rosenbaum talks quickly, his voice breaking up momentarily on his cellphone as his Manhattan-bound train pulls into a station.

 

“I love what I do. I guess I’m just driven,” Rosenbaum says of his head-spinning schedule. In addition to directing two student choirs and heading the graduate program in choral conducting as an associate professor of music at UB, he leads weekly “Sunday Seminars” in conducting at Columbia University in New York, and regularly shuttles between Buffalo, New York and Europe juggling several conducting, consulting and judging projects.

 

During one crazy season, he recalls, he was artistic director of 11 choirs in New York, most of which met weekly at opposite ends of the state.

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harold sketchHarold Rosenbaum Shares His Alphabetical Favorites With Westchester Magazine

County people and places that strike a chord with renowned choral conductor Harold Rosenbaum.

 

Ancient houses. Not by European standards, but who cares?

Barber in Cross River, who also replaces watchbands. It reminds me of the Wild West, where barbers also extracted teeth!

Copland House in Cortlandt Manor. Yes, Aaron actually lived there. I conducted his choral masterpiece In the Beginning at his 80th birthday celebration at Symphony Space in NYC.

Dirt roads. Sure, they can be a muddy mess when it rains, but they are a nice reminder of our past.
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