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Westminster Choir College is a residential college of music, part of Rider Universitymarker, located in Princeton, New Jerseymarker, United States. Its current dean and director is Robert L. Annis.

Westminster Choir College educates men and women at the undergraduate and graduate levels for musical careers in music education, voice performance, piano performance, organ performance, pedagogy, music theory and composition, conducting, sacred music and arts management; professional training in musical skills with an emphasis on performance is complemented by studies in the liberal arts. Westminster's proximity to New York City and Philadelphiamarker provides students with easy access to the musical resources of both cities.

History of the college

John Finley Williamson founded the Westminster Choir in 1920 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Dayton, Ohio. Convinced that professionally trained musicians could best serve the church, he established the Westminster Choir School in September 1926 with sixty students and a faculty of ten. As the Choir School and its choir's reputation grew, the demand for the School's graduates increased. The graduates came to be known as Ministers of Music, a term coined by Dr. Williamson and still being used today by many church music programs.

As early as 1922, the Choir, then known as the Dayton Westminster Choir, began touring the United States annually and sang in such prominent places as Carnegie Hallmarker (New York City), Symphony Hallmarker (Bostonmarker), the Academy of Music (Philadelphiamarker), Orchestra Hall (Chicago) and the White Housemarker for President Calvin Coolidge. Years later the Choir also sang for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Westminster Choir made its first commercial recording with RCA Victor in 1926. Subsequently the Choir recorded with major conductors and orchestras.

In 1928, the Westminster Choir and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski made the nation's first coast-to-coast radio broadcast on Cincinnatimarker station WLW. A few years later because of the Choir's growing reputation it made a total of 60 half-hour broadcasts from NBC's New York facilities.



The first European tour took place in 1929 and was sponsored by Dayton, Ohiomarker philanthropist Katharine Houk Talbott and endorsed by Walter Damrosch, conductor of the New York Symphony Orchestra. The tour included 26 concerts in major cities of Europe.

Originally a three year program, the Choir School moved to Ithaca Collegemarker in New York Statemarker in 1929 and enlarged its curriculum to a four year program culminating in a Bachelor of Music degree. A major reason for the move involved the need to be able to reach the major cities of Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York by rail. All three were cities that sought the choirs under Williamson. This move ultimately proved unsatisfactory.

In 1932, the Choir School relocated to Princeton, New Jerseymarker which became its permanent home. Classes were held in the First Presbyterian Church and the Princeton Seminarymarker until 1934 when the Choir School moved to its present campus. This was made possible by a large gift from the philanthropist Sophia Strong Taylor. The dedication of the new campus was marked by a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B minor at the Princeton Universitymarker Chapel with the Westminster Choir, soloists, and the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Because of his high regard for the Choir, the services of the soloists, orchestra, and conductor were a gift from Stokowski.

Williamson Hall, Westminster College of the Arts of Rider University.


There was a second European Choir tour in 1934 lasting nine weeks and highlighted by a live radio broadcast from Russia to the United States. In the fourteen short years since its founding in 1920, the Choir already had two European tours which earned it international acclaim and a campus of its own. The State of New Jerseymarker in 1939 granted the Choir School accreditation and the name Westminster Choir College was adopted.

In years to come, under Williamson's leadership, the Choir would begin having regular concerts with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Westminster Choir sang with the New York Philharmonic for the first time in 1939 conducted by Sir John Barbirolli. Since that time the Choir has sung over three hundred performances with the Philharmonic, a record number for a single choir to perform with an orchestra. Later that year the Choir sang with the NBC Orchestra conducted by Arturo Toscanini. That same year the Choir, directed by Williamson, sang at the dedication of the New York World's Fair which was broadcast to fifty-three countries.

In 1957, under the auspices of the U.S.marker State Departmentmarker Cultural Exchange Program, the Choir undertook a five month world tour, concertizing in twenty-two countries, covering and appearing before approximately a quarter of a million people.

Williamson retired as President of Westminster Choir College in 1958; however, he continued to give choral clinics and seminars around the world. Most notably in 1959, the U.S. State Department asked Dr. Williamson to organize a Westminster alumni choir to tour Africa. This choir was called the Westminster Singers. The African tour consisted of performances in fifty cities in twenty-six countries with audiences totaling more than 250,000. Following this tour, at the invitation of leading vocal teachers and choral conductors, Dr. Williamson's "retirement" consisted of conducting choral clinics and vocal festivals throughout the United States, Japan, Koreamarker and the Philippinesmarker. A South American choir tour was being planned by the State Department but was cancelled because of Williamson's untimely death in 1964.

In accordance with his request Dr. Williamson's ashes were scattered on the Quadrangle of his beloved campus on July 3, 1964. This turned out to be a myth perpetuated by many a faculty member. (Dr. Williamson's daughter corrected this notion by explaining that his ashes were scattered on the eastern side of the campus near the evergreen trees.) Dramatically the story went, this was said to have taken place during the performance of the Verdi Requiem with the Westminster Festival Choir, soloists, and the Festival Orchestra conducted by Maestro Eugene Ormandy. This performance on the Westminster campus was part of the Tercentennial Celebration of the State of New Jersey. The following day a memorial service for Dr. Williamson was held in the College Chapel.

In 1976, the Choir College celebrated its fiftieth anniversary highlighted by a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Shaw, alumni soloists, and the Westminster Alumni Choir on the Princeton University campus.

Currently, the Director of Choral Activities is Joe Miller, formerly of Western Michigan University. At the beginning of the 2006-2007 academic year, Miller succeeded then-Interim director Timothy Brown, who had replaced Joseph Flummerfelt for just a year upon Flummerfelt's retirement at the end of the 2004-2005 academic year.

Grammy Awards

  • Dvorák: Requiem; Symphony No.9 "From the New World", 2000
The Westminster Symphonic Choir
Zdeněk Mácal and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Delos Records


The Westminster Symphonic Choir
Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Angel/EMI *Nominated


  • Barber: Anthony & Cleopatra, 1983
The Westminster Symphonic Choir
C. Badea and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra
New World Records


The Westminster Symphonic Choir
Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic
Columbia *Nominated


Performance and concert reviews

"Another strength of the performance was the work of the Westminster Symphonic Choir. Showing thorough preparation by its director, Joseph Flummerfelt, the chorus sang superbly, as usual..." The New York Times


"…seamless blend and clarity of diction." The New York Times


"But perhaps the most interesting role is for the chorus itself, which in this case was well prepared by Joseph Flummerfelt. One instant the chorus is the crowd calling for the crucifixion, then it becomes a congregation singing the chorale "Who hath so smitten them." One moment it is caught in narrow viciousness, the next it represents a transcendent perspective. It seems to move between the poles of this work: its anger and its faith, its minute obsession with concrete detail and its grander, humane perspective."The New York Times


"The Westminster Choir contributed spirited and polished singing. The purity of the ‘amen’ of the Pie Jesu was a moment to savor." The Philadelphia Inquirer


"The Westminster Choir … the epitome of choral music." Milwaukee Sentinel


"The Westminster Choir is a highly polished ensemble, one that seems to strive for purity of tone and exceptionally clear enunciation." The Houston Post


"Westminster again proves it has no peer. The choir is adept, practiced and refined to the point of intimidation, and good taste is never an issue. In sum, other choirs are compared to Westminster – not the reverse." Newark Star Ledger


Symphonic performances

The Westminster Symphonic Choir has performed with virtually every major orchestra and conductor of our time including: New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Symphonic Choir, under the direction of Westminster's Director of Choral Activities, has sung at individual performances of large orchestral/choral works with professional orchestras conducted by Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Eugene Ormandy, William Steinberg, Leopold Stokowski, Arturo Toscanini, and Bruno Walter, and such contemporary figures as Pierre Boulez, Mariss Jansons, Erich Leinsdorf, James Levine, Zdeněk Mácal, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Seiji Ozawa, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Robert Shaw, Zubin Mehta, Albert Wolff, and Rafael Frübeck de Burgos. The choir has also received numerous invitations over the years to sing with such touring orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw, and the Vienna Philharmonic when these orchestras have come to perform in New Yorkmarker and Philadelphiamarker.

Notable faculty

Conducting

  • Dr. Joe M. Miller, Director of Choral Activities
  • Dr. Andrew Megill
  • James Jordan


Organ



Piano

  • Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield
  • Dr. J.J. Penna
  • Dalton Baldwin
  • Dr. James Goldsworthy


Theory and Composition



Faculty emeriti

  • Joseph Flummerfelt
  • Helen Kemp
  • Dr. Robin A. Leaver


Honorary doctorates and fellows



Notable alumni



See also



External links




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