BRATTLEBORO—After an intensive search, Jonathan Harvey has been named music director of the Brattleboro Concert Choir.
Harvey succeeds Susan Dedell, who announced her retirement last year after three decades leading the longest-performing ensemble of Brattleboro Music Center. Created by Blanche Moyse even before she established BMC, the Brattleboro Concert Choir performs an exciting and challenging repertoire, ranging from classic choral masterpieces to rarely heard and newly commissioned works.
“We are delighted to welcome Jonathan Harvey as the next music director of the Brattleboro Concert Choir beginning with the 2018-19 Season,” says BMC Managing Director Mary Greene. “He is a fine musician, an expressive and engaging conductor, and a dedicated teacher.”
Harvey, an assistant professor of music and director of choirs at Fitchburg State University, currently lives in central Massachusetts with his wife, Jessica Adamick, and their young son, Wally. He earned a B.A. from Earlham College, a M.A. in music from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in musical arts from the University of Connecticut.
He has previously held music-director positions with universities, community music organizations, and churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Indiana.
Harvey’s commissioning projects, composer collaborations, and frequent performances of new and contemporary works are a testament to his commitment to ensuring that classical music is a living, breathing art form.
His dedication to early music inspired his research, presentations, and recordings of the secular, Latin-texted works of Venetian Renaissance composer Adrian Willaert, his published work on music of Orlando di Lasso and C.P.E. Bach, and his frequent performances of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque repertoire.
A complex assignment
Harvey is thrilled about his new position.
“Although I don’t live in Southern Vermont, Brattleboro is just an hour away, so the commute is easy,” he says. “I have weekly rehearsals with the Choir, as well as other meetings at BMC that will take me to Brattleboro. And, of course, during the week of our public concerts I will be in Vermont much more often.”
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Harvey began his musical career playing the tuba. “So, initially, I came from the instrumental, not choral world,” he says.
But when he studied conducting, it was always with a choral bent in mind. A choral director is a complex assignment, because besides directing a choir, the director must also conduct the various ensembles that back the singers.
“In school. I always studied choral conducting, until I got my Ph.D., which was in general conducting,” Harvey said. “But even then, I only did that because there was no speciality in choral music there.”
Harvey first settled in New England in 2009. After securing his position at Fitchburg State University in 2016, Harvey recently moved to Westminster, Massachusetts, as a good place to raise his new family.
“Before that, I lived near Greenfield, Mass., for a while,” he says. “It was from there I first began spending a lot of time and falling in love with Brattleboro. I quickly discovered it was a vibrant community, with a particularly rich music scene.”
Harvey shortly came to know Susan Dedell through his nearby choral leadership with the Pioneer Valley Symphony and the South Hadley Chorale.
“I was struck by her work with the Concert Choir,” he says. “Besides the distinguished level of its performances, I was impressed by Dedell’s commitment to interesting programming for its concerts.”
When Harvey discovered that Dedell was leaving her post after 30 years, he quickly decided to throw his hat into the ring.
“I wanted to be part of such a creative institution as BMC,” he says. “And now, with their amazing new facility, I saw this as a fantastic opportunity.”
Being music director of the Brattleboro Concert Choir is only one facet of Harvey’s professional career.
“When I moved to New England after I got my M.A., I knew I had to begin building a portfolio of assignments for a career in choral leadership,” he says. “At first I did some other things. For instance, for a while I was an announcer at New England Public Radio, and I also replaced a professor at Providence University when he went on sabbatical. The way musical life goes in an area like this — and perhaps everywhere nowadays — one needs a series of jobs to sustain a career.”
Beginning last year, Harvey became music director of the Sem Creative Arts Festival in Kingston, Pennsylvania, where he spends a month in residence.
“Although on a smaller scale, the festival is a bit like Tanglewood summer program for young artists,” he says. “Sem Creative Arts Festival brings together teens from around the country and the world who are passionate about the arts.
“The odd name for the festival comes from the Northeast Pennsylvania private school where it takes place, Wyoming Seminary, which is a misnomer since it is not located in Wyoming and is not a seminary. Go figure.”
Since last June, Harvey has been getting to know and working with the Brattleboro Concert Choir. Together they are preparing Harvey’s first public performances with the Choir — at the Latchis Theatre in downtown Brattleboro on Jan. 11 and 12.
The concerts are titled “Mozart: Beginnings and Endings,” a name Harvey explains on BMC’s web page: “While the Requiem is often considered Mozart’s last work, Allegri’s Miserere mei, Deus holds a special place in the lore around Mozart’s prodigious young talent. The piece was written by Allegri in the late 1630s specifically for worship in the Sistine Chapel, where he was employed as a singer.
“According to legend, the piece was kept guarded there until a 14-year-old Mozart visited the Vatican in 1770. Upon hearing the piece once, and being stunned by its sublime beauty, he transcribed it perfectly and brought it to the wider world.”
“This should be an exciting concert, and we have a really great group of singers in the choir to bring it alive,” Harvey says. But he also is eager to exhort new people to apply to the Brattleboro Concert Choir: “I want to encourage anyone interested in singing in any context to check us out and see how we work and discover how we may fit into your life.”