Oratorio Society of New York
The Oratorio Society of New York is a not-for-profit membership organization that performs choral music in the oratorio style. Founded in 1873 by conductor Leopold Damrosch and is the third oldest musical organization in New York City. The Society had a prominent role in the building of Carnegie Hall. Throughout its history, it has premiered many new choral works.
Various individuals are credited with inspiring Damrosch's decision to found the Society: Anton Rubenstein, Marie Reno (wife of the Society's secretary Morris Reno), Elkan and Bertha Naumburg, and three unnamed women who felt New York needed a singing society like the ones they had heard on a recent trip to Germany. Bertha Naumburg is said to have suggested the name.
Rehearsals at the Society began in March 1873. On December 3, the Society presented its first concert. One year later, on Christmas night, the Society began what has become an unbroken tradition of annual performances of Handel's Messiah. In 1885, Walter Damrosch, the son of Leopold Damrosch, became conductor after his father's death.
In 1884 Andrew Carnegie joined the Society's board of directors, serving as its president from 1888 to 1919. Three years later, Carnegie added his support to a fund to build a hall that was suitable for choral music. He engaged architect William Tuthill, to design the "Music Hall," now known as Carnegie Hall. Carnegie hall opened in May 1891 with a five-day festival.
In April 1923 the Society, in conjunction with the experimental radio station, WEAF, presented the first choral concert broadcast from Carnegie Hall.
The Society has presented the U.S. premiere of Brahms' A German Requiem (1877), Berlioz' Roméo et Juliette (1882), a full-concert production of Wagner's Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera House (1886), Tchaikovsky'] a cappella Legend and Pater noster (1891) and Eugene Onegin (1908), the now-standard version of The Star-Spangled Banner (1917), Bach's Mass in B Minor (1927), Dvořák's Saint Ludmila (oratorio)|Saint Ludmila (1993), Britten's The World of the Spirit (1998), and Filas' Song of Solomon (2012). The Society has also presented works by Handel, Liszt, Schütz, Schubert, Debussy, Elgar, and Saint-Saëns.
In 1977, the Society inaugurated an oratorio solo competition. International in scope, it is the only significant competition devoted to oratorio solos. In 2006, the competition was renamed the Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition in honor of Lyndon Woodside.
The Society's education program offers high school students in New York City classroom instruction and free tickets to its concerts. It also reaches out to teens by contributing tickets to High 5 Tickets to the Arts. The Society was instrumental in the 2010 founding of the New York Choral Consortium, a member organization comprising 65 choral groups—professional and avocational—throughout the metropolitan area.
Awards and honors
On its 100th anniversary in 1973, the Society was presented with the Handel Medallion for its contributions to the musical life of the city. At its May 1998 125th anniversary concert, the Society was honored by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as: "One of the most treasured institutions of our city's musical life . . . making all New York music lovers grateful for this venerable institution which helps keep our city the music capital of the world."
In March 2003, the Society received the UNESCO Commemorative Medal and the Cocos Island World Natural Heritage Site Award for its series of benefit concerts in Costa Rica. In 2004 the Society received a certificate from the St. Petersburg Submariners Club commemorating its concerts there.
The Society made its European debut in Munich in 1982. Since then it has performed throughout Europe and in Asia and Latin America. In 2015, the Society performed in Halle, Quedlinburg, Dresden, and Leipzig. In 2017, the Society performed at the Teatro Solís in Montevideo, Uruguay.
|Walter Damrosch||1917–21 (2nd time)|
|T. Charles Lee||1959–73||1915–94|
|Dr. F. A. Barnard||1873–74|
|W. S. Coe||1874–75|
|W. L. Goodwin||1875–76|
|Rev. William H. Cooke||1876–88|
|Charles M. Schwab||1919–21|
|Henry Sloane Coffin||1928–49|
|Donald H. Gray||1949–59|
|Caramai Carroll Mali||1959–63|
|Ellen L. Blair||1990–99|
|Richard A. Pace||1999–|
Works conducted by their composers
|February 22, 1875||Leopold Damrosch||Ruth and Naomi|
|May 4, 1881||Leopold Damrosch||Festival Overture|
|April 20 & 22, 1882||Leopold Damrosch||Sulamith|
|April 18 & 19, 1883||Max Bruch||Jubilate amen|
|May 5, 1891||Peter I. Tchaikovsky||Marche solennelle|
|May 7, 1891||Peter I. Tchaikovsky||Suite No.3 for Orchestra|
|May 8, 1891||Peter I. Tchaikovsky||Pater noster|
|May 9, 1891||Walter Damrosch||To Sleep|
|Peter I. Tchaikovsky||So schmerzlich|
|Piano Concerto, Op. 23|
|January 4, 1895||Walter Damrosch||The Scarlet Letter|
|April 24 & 25, 1896||Georg Henschel||Stabat mater|
|March 19, 1907||Edward Elgar||The Apostles|
|March 26, 1907||Edward Elgar||The Kingdom|
|December 8, 1908||Gustav Mahler||Symphony No. 2|
|April 7, 1920||Sergei Rachmaninoff||Springtime|
|April 12, 1935||Walter Damrosch||Golden Jubilee|
|March 25, 1938||Albert Stoessel||Festival Fanfare|
|February 20 & 21, 1941||Walter Damrosch||Cyrano|
|March 1, 1957||Howard Hanson||Elegy in Memory of Serge Koussevitsky|
|Lament for Beowoulf|
|May 8, 1962||Virgil Thomson||Missa pro defunctis|
|April 7, 1968||T. Charles Lee||Farewell, Voyager, Much Yet for Thee|
|November 8, 1980||Aaron Copland||Fanfare for the Common Man|
|November 8 & 9, 1980||Aaron Copland||Short Symphony|
|Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson|
|The Tender Land (excerpts)|
- Archives of the Oratorio Society of New York, 1873–present.
- Damrosch, Walter. My Musical Life. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926.
- Hendrick, Burton J. and Daniel Henderson. Louise Whitfield Carnegie: The Life of Mrs. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Hastings House, 1950.
- Krehbiel, H. E., Choral Music in New York: Notes on the Cultivation of Choral Music and the Oratorio Society of New York. 1894.
- Martin, George. The Damrosch Family. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
- Stebbins, Lucy Poate and Richard Poate Stebbins. Frank Damrosch: Let the People Sing. Durham: Duke University Press, 1945.
- Official website
- Carnegie Hall official site
- Tommasini, Anthony (1998-05-07). "125 Years of Very Serious Amateur Singers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
- The New York Times review of December 21, 2011 concert
- The New York Times review of March 13, 2007 concert
- List of significant cultural institutions in New York City, New York Public Library