In Celebration of Donald Chen’s 20th Season at the North Shore Choral Society

 

            It is our pleasure on this Sunday, May 23, 2004, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Donald Chen’s term as conductor of the North Shore Choral Society.  At twenty years of service (from November 18, 1984,  to May 23, 2004), you, Donald, are the longest serving of any of the ten NSCS conductors.  Other long-serving directors were David Larsen at eleven years and Madi Bacon at ten years.  At the 75th anniversary of North Shore Choral Society in 2011, you, Donald, will have served for more than one-third of the life of the society.

 

            During your twenty years, you have conducted 61 concerts and programmed 140 compositions from 69 composers.  The lives of NSCS members, its professional orchestras and soloists, our audiences and the communities both within and beyond the North Shore have been greatly enriched by this array of great music.  (This count does not include the several Ravinia concerts of Broadway show tunes.)

 

            Of the great European classical composers, you have a Germanic preference.  Of the 140 compositions, 37 were by Germanic composers.   Of those 37 Germanic compositions, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms—the

Three B’s of the music scene—account for fifteen.  If G. F. Handel is counted as Germanic, the total is higher; but if he is counted as English, then sixteen compositions were by English composers.  Italian composers account for eleven compositions, and French for eight.

 

            Of the most frequently performed composers, Bach and Haydn tie at eight.  The B Minor Mass was performed twice, as was Haydn’s Creation.  Handel compositions were performed seven times, and four of these were the Messiah, which was performed more frequently than any other composition.  Mozart and Benjamin Britten account for six compositions each (the Requiem twice and  St. Nicholas three times).  Brahms accounts for five compositions, with his Requiem having been performed three times.  Mendelssohn and Bernstein (American) were performed four times each, with the Chichester Psalms three times and the Elijah twice. .

 

            Noteworthy in your concert programming has been the inclusion of 32 contemporary composers, most of them American.  Donald Draganski (our source for program notes) wrote a commissioned work for NSCS, and his composition The Geometry of Music has been performed twice.  Dominic Argento, a former composer in residence to the CSO, has had his Jonah and the Whale performed twice.  Peter Schickele’s Concerto for Piano and Chorus has been performed only four times—and two of those times were by NSCS.  Current NSCS member Karl Kroeger’s Pax Vobis was heard on today’s concert.  Ernst Bacon, husband of former NSCS conductor Madi Bacon, had his work, Ecclesiastes, performed. 

 

            In performing the works of these current composers who are less celebrated than the great European masters, you and NSCS are promoting the art of musical composition.  Composers surely write scores even if they have no expectation of future performance.  I suspect they are much more likely to compose when they see that organizations like NSCS perform works such as theirs.

 

            You have given an inspiring example of what type of man a musical artist can be.  You have always been patient with the chorus, which consists almost entirely of nonprofessionals; yet you have moved us at a steady pace toward better performance and more challenging compositions.  You have shown a keen sense of the artistic and financial boundaries within which NSCS can successfully operate.  You have been ever faithful and professional in carrying out the responsibilities of your position.  Actually, you have been more than faithful as illustrated by your covering up the piano after rehearsals and always being present for the set-up and take-down after concerts.

 

            Speaking on behalf of the members of NSCS, I congratulate you, thank you, and wish you every success in the coming years!