When an organization so intimately associated with its director takes on the task on continuing under different leadership, it is tricky business. The death almost three years ago of Craig Smith, Emmanuel Music’s founder and charismatic leader for 37 years, left this organization with one tough act to follow.
After considerable thought, Emmanuel took a valid approach — appointing as the new artistic director someone who has been affiliated with the organization for a number of years. Ryan Turner has been a tenor with the choir since 1997, often as soloist, and since 2006 has been a guest conductor for a repertoire that has included Bach, Palestrina, Primosch, Schein and Schütz.
Another way to proceed under new direction is to inaugurate new ideas.
Emmanuel has no intention of changing its popular format, Bach cantatas at the Sunday morning church service, evening concerts with chorus, soloists and orchestra, Sunday afternoon chamber series (this season focused on Beethoven), and regular noontime chapel concerts during Lent, but the organization is offering a new twist: For every concert date this coming season, Emmanuel has negotiated a special deal with its next-door neighbor, the Taj Hotel: a three-course dinner for $30, for ticket holders. In fact, Emmanuel has dubbed its new season “When Innovation Meets Tradition.”
On September 24, Emmanuel begins its season with a fitting blockbuster: George Frideric Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, a setting of a poem by John Dryden written in honor of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. In keeping with the theme, Donald Teeters, music director of The Boston Cecilia, will give a pre-concert lecture at 7 pm.
“Alexander’s Feast expresses the power of music that is embodied in the artistry of the Emmanuel Music ensemble,” comments legendary Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer, long associated in many ways with Emmanuel Music.
The music calls for a large orchestra, with horns, trumpets and drums, and soloists. Familiar Emmanuel Music names are still there, as well as among Emmanuel’s singers.
Turner, raised in Texas and educated at Southern Methodist University, arrived in Boston in 1995 to study for a Masters Degree at The Boston Conservatory and now lives in Exeter, NH, with his wife, soprano Susan Consoli and their son, Aidan. He is currently in his fifth year as Director of Choral Activities at Phillips Exeter Academy and has also been Acting Director of the SongFest Bach Institute in California (founded by Craig Smith), Music Director of the Concord Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, Assistant Director of Choral Activities at the University of Rhode Island, Interim Director of Choral Activities at Plymouth State University, and Music Director of the Concord Chorus.
He has sung in Handel’s L’Allegro with the Mark Morris Dance Group, six seasons at the Carmel Bach Festival, Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte with Opera Aperta conducted by Craig Smith and over 40 Bach cantatas with Emmanuel Music. Turner’s discography includes the role of Metagenes in Kapsberger’s Apotheosis with Ensemble Abendmusik for DORIAN, and for KOCH, works by Praetorius with Apollo’s Fire and Bach BWV 76 with Emmanuel Music.
You get the idea: same fine group, new directions.