Parish Singers Return to Carnegie Hall

April 6, 2018

Next week, 11 vocalists from St. Stephen’s depart for New York City to join a large company of other musicians in a performance at Carnegie Hall. The concert will take place on Sunday, April 15 and the event marks the third time the Parish Choir will perform at the Stern Auditorium on the Perelman Stage for Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY).

The choir will join in the performance of composer Dan Forrest’s work, Jubilate Deo, based on Psalm 100.

An Opportunity of a Lifetime

You may be wondering how our Parish Choir found itself performing at Carnegie Hall, not once, but three times.

The Carnegie Hall journey started when the Carpe Diem Vocal Ensemble, a choral group founded by our Director of Music, Clark Duhrkopf that included many members of the Parish Choir, performed composer Karl Jenkins’, Stabat Mater, in March of 2013.  Through the power of You Tube, a recording of the performance made its way to the DCINY committee.

Imagine Clark’s surprise when he received an email from DCINY. “I thought it was SPAM at first,” recalls Duhrkopf. “I called and was surprised when I heard, ‘Distinguished Concerts International – Carnegie Hall, may I help you?’ on the other end of the line.” After regaining consciousness, Clark had a conversation he never even dreamed of having and before he knew it, the choir was invited to join with choirs from around the world to perform at Carnegie Hall in January of 2014.

Clark recalls that first trip to Carnegie as truly amazing. “Sharing the same stage as so many famous performers” and taking a private back stage tour are just a few of the cherished memories. He particularly remembers “seeing the archives which house every concert program from the first concert to the most recent, which was OURS!”

Repeat Performance

Even Clark didn’t expect the second invitation in the spring of 2015 to come back to Carnegie Hall to join in performing the world premiere of a work by Twin Cities composer, Carol Barnett and Librettist, Marisha Chamberlainan, Mortals and Angels: A Bluegrass Te Deum.

“We were the first invitation DCINY issued, ” says Clark. “And, of course, we said YES!” In addition to the natural fit with the Minnesota connection of the concert, Clark shares that DCINY was very impressed with how prepared our vocalists were and how they were counting on the leadership of the group.

This reputation didn’t go unnoticed by Carol Barnett and Marisha Chamberlainan when they came to our church in October 2015 for a rehearsal. Our choir was the first to sing their piece for them and they were very grateful for the preparation that Clark and the choir had clearly done,.

So, the choir was back on the Perelman Stage in January of 2016.

In addition to the memories of the performance itself, the choir experienced some rare “alone” time in Times Square, which was deserted following a 29.1 inch snow storm. Getting up close and personal with folks making snow angels and snowmen in the middle of Broadway is memorable to say the least!

A Dynasty?

No one should be surprised (even though they were) when Clark received the call last year with an invitation to come back to the Carnegie stage to perform. It’s also not surprising that one of the reasons DCINY reached out to Clark was due to the complexity and magnitude of the particular work being performed and the group’s confidence in our vocalists’ ability to perform it. “It’s unreal,” a still slightly stunned Clark says. “At first glance, Jubilate Deo is intimidating. It’s in seven different languages – Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Zulu African, Spanish and of all things, English.”

Clark recalls the words of the DCINY representative who called, “Ask Clark, his choir will be ‘ultra-prepared’.” No pressure there! The choir has been diligently at work learning the piece since September of last year and they excited to perform it next week.

Clark arrives in NYC on April 12 for a Director’s Meeting, with the rest of the group arriving soon after. While there is some time to be tourist, a large amount of the group’s time will be spent in multiple rehearsals leading up to the performance on April 15.

Our singers can look forward to meeting folks from all over the world as they will be intermingled with their section – soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and base. “That’s one of the best parts,” says Clark. “I’m still in contact with a few people from Argentina from our time in 2014.”

See a write-up about St. Stephen’s on the DCINY’s event page for the April 15 performance – very cool!

“As folks have heard me say many times, I am so humbled and proud,” shared Clark. ” Proud of the incredibly wonderful singers I ‘get to’ work with here. They work so hard and take time out of their lives to come to rehearsals, often on Wednesdays and even some Saturdays, in addition to the time they give on Sundays and other Holy Days.”

Its that pride that really warms Clark’s soul. He and the musicians of St. Stephen’s love to offer the gft of music. Whether it’s on Sunday mornings, at a 98 year old woman’s birthday party, or singing with a choir of 200 at Carnegie Hall, the group gives as much as they get. “It’s a great feeling, for sure!”

Clark wanted to share a big “thank you to our St. Stephen’s Family. From the clergy and staff, to the congregation and beyond, the support for what we do means the world. We are ever-grateful!”

Hear more from the diverse groups of St. Stephen’s Music Ministry, including a performance of the Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo, by attending the one of the remaining concerts in the Spring Music Series. View all the details here.