Unsung Heroes Part I: Accompanists

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

This week on the Choral Mix, Kent Trittle introduces a new series featuring the unsung heroes of choral music. The works featured showcase the importance of accompanists, and the masters that perform the role. We hear performances of the Requiem by Durufle, and Boulanger's Psalm 24 with organist Nancianne Parella, who will speak about her extensive career as a collaborative artist.

Most concertgoers attribute an ensemble's quality to the conductor, usually unaware of the significance of accompanying. What many don't know is that accompanist must constantly be able to tap into the conductor's mind. They must assist the choir in aurally understanding what the director is demonstrating physically. This is no easy task, but it's one that masters such as Ms. Parella must skillfully and gracefully perform. In her interview with Kent, Nancianne tells of her first experience with renowned conductor, Robert Shaw.

Parella tells of what it was like being a female accompanist during times which it was uncommon, and of performing masterworks including the Verdi Requiem. Nancianne recalls being asked by Shaw to perform alone the fugue from the Requiem, all of the voice parts on the keyboard, while 250 singers listened to their parts. Though she recalls the success of this moment, she also tells of the three weeks prior in which she learned not only every voice part, but the entire orchestral score, which is no small feat.

In celebratring these heroes, we hear works by Bernstein, Brahms, Musgrave, and many others.

Who are your unsung heroes in choral music?


Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola
Nancianne Parella, organist

I was Glad
Westminster Choir
Nancianne Parella, organist
New Jersey

Psalm 24
Westminster Choir
Nancianne Parella, organist
New Jersey

To The One of Fictive Music

The Dessoff Choirs
Steve Ryan, Piano

North Labrador from Black Tambourine
and Repose of Rivers from Black Tambourine
Thea Musgrave
The New York Virtuoso Singers
Walter Hilse, piano

Der Abend from Sieben Abendlieder and O Schöne Nacht from Sieben Abendlieder
Robert Shaw Festival Chorus
Norman Mackenzie and Juhn Wustman, pianos

From the Messe Cum Jubilo
Voices of Ascension
Mark Kruczek, organist

And I Saw a New Heaven

Voices of Ascension
Mark Kruczek, organist

Make our Garden Grow

Barbara Cook, soloist
Eric Stern, piano
Harold Rosenbaum

Programming note: On June 14, Kent Tritle brings together select members from the city’s chamber choirs for an evening in The Greene Space, WQXR’s intimate performance venue. The all-Brahms program includes the Liebeslieder Waltzes as well as a piano-four hands arrangement for the German Requiem. Stay tuned for more details!

Comments [7]

This was a great show! I learned alot from Nancianne's talk about the extensive preparation that goes into being a great accompanist and the creative artistry that some accompanists have...it was wonderful to hear about the unsung heroes and to have actually worked with Nancianne at St. Ignatius. Thanks,Kent!

May. 17 2011 11:04 AM
Michael Meltzer

Just a segue to Ms. Coan's citation: I was having a chat with Claude Frank around 2003 in a piano shop as he was getting ready to coach a NY Youth Symphony chamber music master class, and his Dessoff gig came up in conversation. He sat right down at a piano (50 years later) and played 16 bars of the Guillaume de Machaut Mass!
Also to segue Mr. Bullough, Robert Baker was the best Bach organist I ever heard in my life.
Kent has done a beautiful thing here. Nancianne and her colleagues have been blowing us all away with their talent and artistry for years, it is wonderful that they can now have some public recognition. We hope it leads to even more.

May. 15 2011 09:16 PM
Robert Russell from New York City

How wonderful it was for you to highlight accompanists and their importance to successful choruses and choirs. You could choose no one better to representative them than Nancianne Parella. She articulated in her few words the heart of the job of a successful accompanists and how to achieve that goal. No wonder she is at the top of the accompanist list. Her “what to do” could be contained in a very small pamphlet for everyone who is or would like to be an accompanist as well as every conductor. And do not forget the singers. They too often do not realize the amount of help they could receive from the accompanist if they were only aware.

May. 15 2011 08:07 PM
DiAnn Pierce

How nice that accompanists in general, and Nancianne Parella in particular, are being given some well-deserved recognition. Where would we be without them? Thanks for showcasing them! Others that deserve to be recognized are David Ralph and Scott Warren.

May. 15 2011 07:14 PM
Mary B. Coan

In 1952 Paul Boepple, a musicologist specializing an early music, was teaching at Bennington College in Vermont and directing the Dessoff choirs in New York. His accompanist was a young Claude Frank. I was auditioned by Mr. Frank, and was thrilled to be allowed to sing with Dessoff and to participate in concerts in Carnegie Hall and Town Hall. We sang works by Palestrina, Monteverdi, Mozart, and other fabulous works as well. Claude Frank remains at the top of my list of unsung accompanists... not to mention his distinguished career as a concert pianist and father of Pamela Frank.

May. 15 2011 05:56 PM
John Bullough from Pompton Plains, NJ

Thank you for your fine program on skilled accompanists, all too often under-appreciated. I hope we will also remember those who conduct from the organ console and with a good choir are able to direct the singers and master the instrument at the same time. Robert Baker and Searle Wright had this gift. I remember them fondly and with gratitude.

May. 15 2011 04:19 PM
BJ Fredricks from Brooklyn

Ken Dake, Marble Collegiate Church for his ability to play so beautifully in so many styles. Also Scott Warren, Middle Collegiate Church & Temple Emanu-el.

May. 15 2011 08:10 AM

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