The Stravinsky Years

Chronology Part 2:
First Contact


Gregg Smith Singers recorded for Verve Records in 1959. While the recording was released, distribution was not wide-spread. However, it is possible that either the performances of contemporary works at the Monday Evening Concerts or the Verve Record release, or a combination of both led to being asked to work with Robert Craft on a program that featured the Bach Cantata 4 at the Monday Evening Concerts.

Stravinsky and Robert Craft were both good friends of the Monday Evening Concerts.

Gregg Smith: “I heard later on that they had both liked the Gregg Smith Singers’ attention to detail and interest in contemporary music. In particular, Stravinsky liked GSS’s work and “attitude” toward new choral music. Stravinsky felt that the right attitude to approaching, understanding and performing contemporary music was vital and he had a real understanding of how important conducting and rehearsal technique was to the most effective performance of music.”

As a result of this work and interest, the Gregg Smith Singers were asked to sing Stravinsky’s “The Nightingale” (“Le Rossignol”) at a concert featuring music by Stravinsky, with Stravinsky conducting, at Franz Waxman’s Los Angeles Music Festival on June 15, 1959.

GSS also performed Giovanni Gabrieli’s “In ecclesiis”, with Robert Craft conducting, at this concert. The “Chamber Concerto” by Alban Berg, also conducted by Robert Craft, was on the program and Gregg Smith was tapped to turn pages for Igor Stravinsky during rehearsals of the “Chamber Concerto.”

This was the beginning of a close relationship between the Gregg Smith Singers and Stravinsky that continued until the composer’s death in 1971.