Simon Rattle Honors Former Music Director John Scott and Welcomes New One

Monday, September 19, 2016 - 12:35 PM

WQXR
Sir Simon Rattle leads the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys in the Fauré Requiem. Sir Simon Rattle leads the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys in the Fauré Requiem. (Matthew Brown)

A sold out crowd filled St. Thomas Church this past Sunday night to hear Sir Simon Rattle lead a concert in memory of the congregation's former music director as well as welcoming the new one. 

The event, featuring the Fauré Requiem, honored John Scott, who had been the organist and choir director from 2004 until he died suddenly in August 2015. Scott had previously recorded the piece with the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys and the Orchestra of St. Luke's, which also performed at Sunday's concert. It also raised more than $300,000 toward a goal of $500,000 for a scholarship fund for the Saint Thomas Choir School in Scott's name. 

The church's new music director and organist, Daniel Hyde, performed Bach's Prelude and Fugue in G Major, his first appearance at the church in his new position.

"It's a bit of a double edged thing," said Hyde of the concert two days earlier. "On the one hand, this is the final tribute in a whole year of tributes to John, so there is that pause for thought and looking over what he has achieved. And on the other side of this concert with Simon Rattle is in a sense his endorsement of me being director and moving on." 

Rattle, who is in the midst of rehearsals for the season opening production of Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera, led a pensive account of the Requiem as well as two other solemn works: Vaughn Williams's The Lark Ascending and Elgar's Serenade for Strings

Members of the audience craned their necks to see Hyde, a tall Englishman who comes to Saint Thomas from Oxford University, perform the Bach piece on the Loening-Hancock organ. Hyde graciously acknowledged the instrument as he received warm applause.

Hyde, who arrived in New York in August, started rehearsals barely a week prior to the concert, leaving precious time to get the boys choir ready for their big performance. Luckily, they had performed the Requiem in recent seasons. "Half of them knew it when we opened it last Friday. That was a relief," Hyde said.

Now with the "pre-season event" of the Rattle benefit over, Hyde's job of leading the choir school and attending to its regular concert season begins in earnest on Tuesday. He has structured the public performances around the theme of creation, with the Haydn oratorio as its centerpiece. In addition, the traditional performances of Handel's Messiah is scheduled for Dec. 6 and 8.

As for the choristers, they have other expectations of their new chorus master, Hyde said: "Being very tall as I am they're very keen if I might show them if I can slam dunk a basketball."

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