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The Gregg Smith Singers

  1. Started in Los Angeles recording a background for a Stephen Foster TV Bio.

  2. Produced their first concert, giving the American premiere of Respighi’s Laud to the Nativity with first review (favorable) from Los Angeles Times’ Walter Arlen.

  3. First appearance on the prestigious Monday Evening Concert Series, premiered Lidholm’s Laudi. Also premiered works by Miklos Rosza, Michael Hennagin and Ralph Swickard for the National Alliance of American Composers.

  4. Premiered Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 27 for Monday Evening Concerts. In the summer, made their first tour of Europe appearing in the International Eisteddfod in Wales, Salzburg’s Mozarteum and on TV at the Brussels World’s Fair.

  5. First commercial recording, “Music in Multidimensional Sound” came out on the Verve label. GSS also sang Bach Cantata #4 with Robert Craft in their fifth Monday Evening Concerts appearance.

  6. First appearance under Igor Stravinsky at Franz Waxman’s Los Angeles Music Festival. It was the beginning of a close relationship that continued until the composer’s death in 1971.

  7. In June GSS made their second appearance with Stravinsky at the LA Festival and subsequently recorded Stravinsky’s Mass for Columbia Records. This was followed by a tour of Europe that included the Edinburgh, Salzburg and Darmstadt festivals. Rave reviews (“one of the Edinburgh’s four great concerts”) and a Time magazine article on the Darmstadt program led to an offer by impresario Kenneth Allen to tour nationally.

  8. GSS’ first national tour had 63 concerts from coast to coast. Allen continued booking the Gregg Smith Singers for the next ten years.

  9. The first of four Everest recordings, “An American Tryptich,” contained works by Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and William Schuman. It had a great impact on choral conductors who had not heard these works before. The Singers also gave the world premiere of Stravinsky’s The Dove Descending in their eighth Monday Evening Concert appearance.

  10. John McClure, Director of Columbia Masterworks, signed GSS to a long term contract to record all the choral music of Charles Ives (four albums).

  11. Gregg moved to the East Coast (Ithaca College) in order to be near New York City which had a far better climate for classical music than Los Angeles. At the same time a great deal of recording with Stravinsky commenced with the West Coast GSS, making Mr. Smith a very busy commuter. The first of the Ives recordings, “General William Booth enters into Heaven” was made in June.

  12. With a great college choir at Ithaca, Gregg was able to augment GSS for more Stravinsky performances and recordings — Persephone on the West Coast and the world premiere of his last major composition, Requiem Canticles at Princeton. This was also the year of GSS’ first Grammy (“General Booth”).

  13. GSS joined E. Power Biggs and George Bragg’s Texas Boys Choir for the historic recordings made in San Marco in Venice, “The Glory of Gabrieli.” Upon their return to the United States GSS joined the Ithaca choir in Carnegie Hall to perform and record with Leopold Stokowski Four Songs for Chorus and Orchestra by Charles Ives.

  14. A big award year: 1) GSS’ second Grammy for “The Glory of Gabrieli” recording, 2) a High/Fi Stereo “Record of the Year” (Billings album) and 3) the Montreaux award for their participation in Robert Craft’s “Schoenberg — Vol. VI” (Canons).

  15. Having moved to SUNY Stony Brook, Smith organized an all-Stravinsky concert (Robert Craft conducting) with the University Choir, GSS and his newly formed community chorus, LISCA. Stravinsky attended the concert in what was to be his last public appearance. During the summer, Smith traveled to LA to prepare the West Coast GSS for the world premiere of Lalo Schifrin’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich at the Hollywood Bowl.

    GSS toured and recorded Jack Beeson's delightful canon for CRI in 1969.

    Listen to: Jack Beeson, Give the Poor Singer a Penny

  16. Kenneth Allen retired and Gregg joined forces with Walter Gould, beginning a wonderful and unique artist/manager relationship that continued to Gould’s retirement in 2000. On Christmas Eve, Gregg Smith and Rosalind Rees were married at Saint Peter’s Church, NYC which later became the home base of the GSS.

  17. When Stravinsky died in April the family sent Gregg to Venice to “round up” a chorus and orchestra to perform the Requiem Canticles at the funeral service there. It was an adventure like no other but against the most improbable odds, he succeeded. Roz joined him a few days later and ended up singing the alto solo.

  18. GSS joined Balanchine’s New York City Ballet in a massive tribute to Stravinsky, closing the two-week festival at the New York State Theater with Symphony of Psalms.

    GSS recorded Ives Celestial Country in March of 1972 in St. Paul's Chapel on Columbia University campus with John McClure as recording engineer.

    Listen to: Charles Ives, Double Quartet from Celestial Country

  19. Both the GSS New York Concert Series and the Adirondack Festival of American Music in Saranac Lake, NY began this year. They continue today. The Singers also began recording with Vox, celebrating the 300th birthday of Heinrich Schuetz with a three-record Schuetz “Vox Box.”

  20. With the 100th birthday years of both Schoenberg and Ives, GSS took special programs of their music to Europe, performing concerts and radio broadcasts in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Great Britain.

  21. A massive Bicentennial recording project (sponsored in part by the Ford Foundation), “America Sings” (13 LPs in all) began with the Vox Box “The Great Sentimental Age,” recorded in the newly-refurbished Renwick Art Gallery in Washington DC.

  22. GSS performed an all American choral concert at Interlochen for the ACDA in July. They then continued on to make their first tour of Asia (plus Hawaii), appearing in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.

    GSS women recorded Elliott Carter's Harmony of Morning in the spring of 1976 at Brooklyn College.

    Listen to: Elliott Carter, Harmony of Morning

  23. GSS traveled to Fort Worth to record their famous Christmas album, “A Festival of Carols”, joining forces with the Texas Boys Choir and the Dorothy Shaw Bell Choir. The project was sponsored by Mary D. and Howard Walsh who, though non-musicians, attended all the rehearsals and recording sessions. Re-released on CD, the album is still going strong today.

  24. Gregg was given the Alice M. Ditson award that honors conductors for their service to American music, joining such luminaries as Leopold Stokowski and Leonard Bernstein. He is the only choral director besides Robert Shaw to have won this award.

  25. With the help of the Victor Herbert Foundation, GSS recorded in Saranac Lake the first of four Herbert operetta “highlights” albums, The Red Mill. Gregg orchestrated all four (Mlle Modiste, Naughty Marietta, The Red Mill and Sweethearts).

  26. Thanks to an award from the Alice M. Ditson Fund, GSS launched their own record company, GSS Recordings, to provide an outlet for contemporary American choral music. During the company’s ten-year existence the Singers recorded over 100 different pieces and produced eleven albums. Unfortunately it was the very time that LPs went out of business, to be superseded by cassettes and soon after that, CDs. It was not wasted effort however, because some of the recordings are now reissued on CD by other companies

  27. Walter Gould landed the Gregg Smith Singers a contract with CAMI which meant many more touring dates because of the Community Concerts tie-in. A second recording made under the sponsorship of the Walshes in Ft. Worth, “A World of Folksong,” was GSS’ first digitally recorded album. In the winter of 1981 Watson Bosler presented the first Memorial Vespers, combining the Saint Peter’s Church Choir and GSS with orchestra, in memory of his mother.

  28. GSS made their second tour of the Far East, this time under the aegis of the US State Department. In Singapore there was a billboard painted from our group photo — all the faces were Asian! Again, GSS joined the Saint Peter’s Church Choir for the Bosler Memorial Vespers which has become a traditional May concert with chorus and orchestra.

  29. Under the sponsorship of the Scandinavian composers union NOMUS, GSS toured Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Highlights were two concerts at the Bergen Festival and a concert at the Tivoli.

    GSS recorded three Elliott Carter choral pieces including Emily Dickinson's Heart not so heavy as mine in 1983

    Listen to: Elliott Carter: Heart not so heavy as mine

  30. GSS toured five islands in Hawaii with a “side trip” to Hong Kong. It was the year of the huge volcanic eruption on the big island, Hawaii, and the ash affected our singers’ throats hundreds of miles away in Oahu!

  31. GSS got a boost from the NEA with an Advancement grant, the first given to a professional chorus.

  32. GSS made an appearance with the New York Philharmonic as part of a special new music series called “Horizons.” Gregg co-conducted Lutoslawski’s Trois Poemes d’Henri Michaux with Gunther Schuller. During the summer at AFAM, the Singers had the great honor of performing with Dave Brubeck in the first of many collaborations.

  33. This year saw a unique collaboration with the Ensemble Josquin Des Pres of France. A spring recording for Vox — “A French-American Salute” — was followed by a tour of the Picardy region of Northern France in August. A highlight was two appearances in the immense Amiens Cathedral. After a hiatus of twelve years, GSS rejoined Robert Craft in what was the beginning of a new series of Stravinsky concerts in New York’s Alice Tully Hall.

  34. GSS was given the coveted Berliavsky award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for their life-long contribution to American music.

  35. GSS joined Gregg’s Long Island community chorus, LISCA, in a tour of Spain featuring portions of the Monteverdi Vespers. In December, GSS made the first of four appearances with Garrison Keillor in his New York based program, “The American Radio Theatre.”

  36. The premiere of Gregg’s children’s opera, Rip Van Winkle, took place at the Central Park East Elementary School in collaboration with their choir (Barry Solowey, director) and GSS. This was a commission from NYSCA’s Arts in Education program.

    Listen to: Excerpt from Rip Van Winkle
    Game Song
    Stephen Paparo, baritone
    Deborah Cunningham, piano

  37. Italy beckoned! Silvio Piovesan, whose uncle had commissioned Stravinsky in the late 1950s, wanted to tour Les Noces. It was a great collaboration between GSS, the Strasbourg Percussion Ensemble, GSS Soloists and four former GSS pianists who had all received Fulbright scholarships and were living in Europe. In the fall, GSS recorded Les Noces and other Russian works with Robert Craft in a new Stravinsky CD series for MusicMasters. In November in LA, GSS honored Leonard Stein's retirement from the Schoenberg Institute, UCLA, and then sang a concert in the living room of the Schoenberg house surrounded by the master's furniture and paintings!

  38. GSS repeated the Stravinsky tour of Italy with the same forces, this time with a concert in Rome and three in beautiful springtime Sicily. Just as in 1984 in Hawaii, the volcano (Etna) was active!

  39. GSS took on a new role as opera chorus in a concert version of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at Alice Tully Hall. This was subsequently recorded for the Stravinsky series on MusicMasters. Backstage at a tour concert in Florence Alabama, we met the last surviving original owner of a Frank Lloyd Wright "Usonian" house.  Ms. Rosenberg invited us over the next morning for a tour and we sang a song for her in the living room some of us had seen in books by FLW for decades! 

  40. The highlight of this year was the concert for Chorus America’s National Convention in NYC on June 2nd. It was memorable not only because of the very special audience, but also because six master composers — Milton Babbitt, Jack Beeson, Lukas Foss, Morton Gould, Hale Smith and Louise Talma — all honored GSS with a personal appearance at a pre-concert panel on, naturally, writing choral music. (Louise had the last word. When asked why she wrote choral music, she said “Why, because the voice is the first and most beautiful instrument.”)

  41. GSS was invited to the St. Petersburg (Russia) “International Spring Festival” to perform four concerts of contemporary American and Russian music. The fall saw a new recording of contemporary Mexican choral music released and our gala 40th Anniversary Concert with 50 East Coast alumni joining the current GSS.

  42. GSS began the year with a repeat of the 40th Anniversary Concert on the West Coast where GSS began — a gala evening for Monday Evening Concerts. From LA we flew to Mexico City to perform three concerts plus a composers workshop. Back to LA we started a four week, 17 concert cross-country tour, finishing in NYC.

  43. GSS was invited to participate in a choral festival in Legnano, Italy where we were the featured chorus. We gave eight concerts in nine days in several halls in this beautiful town just north of Milano. 1997 also marked the 25th anniversaries of the Singers’ New York Concert Series and the Adirondack Festival of American Music.

  44. Musically the season climaxed with the Bosler Memorial Vespers in May when we presented three masterpieces of Gustav Holst which utilized the largest orchestra ever for the Bosler service. Together with Saint Peter’s Choir, GSS sang the magnificent Hymn to Jesus. A personal highlight for Gregg and Roz occurred in August when they sold Penthouse West, their NYC apartment of 28 years, and moved to a lovely house in Yonkers with, finally, enough room for GSS’ music library.

  45. Fifteen years earlier, GSS had toured the state of West Virginia performing at various colleges and universities. Under the West Virginia Arts Consortium, they once again toured the state. The highlight of each concert was the pairing of GSS and the local university choir in Gregg’s lush setting for two choirs of West Virginia, Alice McClain’s poem extolling the beauty of this state.

  46. GSS had many millennium projects, including performing composers born at the turn of the 20th Century — Aaron Copland, Kurt Weill, Ernst Krenek and George Antheil. Three new CDs were released: Music of Lukas Foss, Like Shining and Music of Brian Schober. GSS again became an opera chorus, performing in the Berkshire Opera Company production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi (a version of Romeo and Juliet). The Singers acquitted themselves wonderfully and had splendid reviews.

  47. Gregg’s 70th birthday year. In May, GSS premiered Gregg’s children’s opera The Dreameater with Barry Solowey’s Central Park East Elementary Choir — the final project of a 5-year Annenberg grant. David Hancock, dear friend and long-time GSS recording engineer, died from Parkinson’s. The first concert of the 30th year of our New York Concert Series opened with Gregg’s poignant setting of Nancy Murphy’s text In Memoriam — 9/11/01.

  48. Our New York Concert Series continued to feature Gregg’s music. GSS made what was to be their last tour — several concerts in North Carolina.

  49. In March GSS began a long-awaited Ives project with sponsorship from the Charles Ives Society, recording several of Ives early church works from the 1890s when he was still a very young man. In May, St. Mary’s College, the sister college of Notre Dame awarded Gregg an honorary doctorate.

    Listen to: Charles Ives, Processional: Let There Be Light

  50. In March GSS sang the New York premiere of Gregg’s Emily’s Autumn, a cycle of five Emily Dickinson settings. In June Chorus America honored Gregg with the Louis Botto award for entrepreneurial spirit. In accepting this $5,000 award, Gregg said “I never thought of myself as being entrepreneurial, but I guess since the Gregg Smith Singers are nearly 50 years old, I must be!”

  51. GSS’ 50th Anniversary Year. Nearly 100 of our wonderful former singers re-united in November for a special weekend of celebration. We sang a concert of GSS “Signature works” with the current GSS and, in the 2nd half, with GSS past and present. Mendelssohn’s Heilig and Ives Psalm 90 were highlights. Of course we ended with Gregg’s Now I walk in Beauty.

    Listen to: Mendelssohn, Heilig

  52. Continuing the 50th Anniversary celebration, GSS presented a Concert of Commissions in January with ten new works written for GSS. In April we joined with LISCA, Gregg’s Community Chorus in a long-time GSS favorite, the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610. July marked the 34th and final summer of the Adirondack Festival of American Music.

  53. Based now exclusively in NYC, GSS Concert Series presented two concerts opening with Bach motets and featuring new American music. We recorded Ned Rorem’s NEA-commissioned 50th Anniversary Four Sonnets for Chorus and Piano which became the title work of GSS’ 2nd Living Artists CD “I Am In Need Of Music” released in November.

    Listen to: Ned Rorem, Four Sonnets: I. I Am In Need Of Music

  54. GSS received its largest-ever NEA grant — $70,000 which we miraculously matched — to present in April an American Masterpieces Festival called THE GREGG SMITH SINGERS LEGACY — Celebrating the American Masterpieces commissioned, recorded and performed over 50 years — a symbolic passing of the torch to choruses of today: Cantori New York, Saint Peter’s Church Choir, LISCA, and of tomorrow: Syracuse Children’s Chorus. These five choirs including GSS sang four concerts in three days.

  55. Our March concert was sung in memory of Lukas Foss, Gregg’s teacher at UCLA who had often written for GSS, and of Edmund Najera, long time singer/composer member of GSS. Thomas Schmidt became GSS’ associate conductor, sharing rehearsals and concerts with Gregg. In December GSS’ long-awaited Virgil Thomson CD will be released by Albany Records.