Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt visits our rehearsal

It was one of those moments in which one feels truly fortunate. Here I sat, like I have so many other Tuesday nights over the past 15 years, in rehearsal with the 150+ singers of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, preparing for our upcoming performance. What was different about tonight, however, was the fact that I wasn’t the guy leading the rehearsal. Nope, I was just the guy sitting in the chair listening, absorbing, relishing, reacting.

Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt – – chorus master to the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra for decades, and head of the famed Westminster Choir College for most of his career – – now lives in Indianapolis, choosing our city for his retirement domicile where he is close to family, lifelong friends and our vibrant arts scene. Joe has already been most generous and kind to me, over several lovely meals out, talking about choral singing, our favorite works, the unique challenges of preparing nearly 200 singers to work with an orchestra conductor whom we may or may not know very well. And our concerts….he comes to our concerts regularly to show his support!

So imagine my great joy when Joe responded affirmatively to my invitation to come work with “my” choir on our current project, the Requiem by Maurice Durufle. I was eager for the chance to learn about the work from him, and to “hear” my own choir through his amazing ears.

And I wasn’t disappointed. To the contrary, I was thrilled. In fact, it is possible that, sitting there during the radiant choral beams of the “Kyrie” movement, I might have had “a moment” of sublime joy. Joe’s work with us focused on a number of fundamental concepts: direction of the sung line, renewing vowel shapes on long sustained notes, strengthening our sense of ensemble. And it focused on just-as-important aesthetics of music making: “‘Hosanna in Excelsis’…you know what you’re singing about, ‘Hosanna in the Highest.’ But can you please look like you’re happy about it?!”

Together, the Symphonic Choir and I have had more than our measure of wonderful musical moments…through presentation of masterworks by Handel, Britten, Brahms, Mendelssohn….and through shared glimpses of beauty and joy in rehearsal. And yet, sitting in Joe’s rehearsal this night, learning from his teaching, hearing my own choir again through his razor sharp ears, I felt even more blessed. We all know that music is a teacher for us always, every rehearsal, every concert, every study session. But to have it brought into such sharp focus for me with the choir that I already know so well, was exhilarating and profoundly moving. I found my own energy for choral excellence and beauty raised ever higher. Thank you, Joe!

Eric Stark
Artistic Director
Indianapolis Symphonic Choir

The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir joins the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for performances of the Durufle Requiem on Friday and Saturday, May 20 and 21 at Hilbert Circle Theatre. Tickets and more information are available here.