Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Demise of the Juilliard Choral Union

I have been a member of the Juilliard Choral Union for four years. With the ensemble I have performed many wonderful concerts which included staged performances of Igor Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, at the Juilliard School, and the world premiere of Peter Martin's ballet Chichester Psalms, with the music of Leonard Bernstein, with the New York City Ballet.

Last Spring, while rehearsing for a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony the ensemble was informed that our director, Judith Clurman, had resigned from the Juilliard School. The members of the chorus, distraught over the fact that the ensemble would not continue, petitioned the president of the school, Joseph Polisi, to keep the group going. It is fair to say that every person in that chorus signed this petition which was delivered to President Polisi's desk before our last concert of the year.

A few weeks ago, the members of the chorus received the following e-mail from the president of the Juilliard School.

Dear members of the Juilliard Choral Union,

Please accept my gratitude for your important contributions to Juilliard’s musical life over the past year, culminating with the success of our Commencement Concert.

As was announced to the Choral Union about three weeks ago, Judith Clurman has decided to resign her position at the Juilliard School. We thank her for her many years of dedicated work on behalf of choral music at Juilliard and wish her well in her future endeavors.

This coming season was going to be, by necessity, one with limited choral activity. The ongoing construction activity at both Alice Tully Hall and within the Juilliard building has had a significant impact on the availability of both rehearsal and, particularly, performance space. Many of the concerts that traditionally take place under our roof have either been cut back or placed in other venues throughout New York City. The Choral Union’s schedule was already planned to be a limited one in the 2007-08 season because of these factors, with no major work planned with the Juilliard Orchestra.

As a result of Judy's decision and the very limited performance schedule envisioned for the Choral Union, we have decided to put the Juilliard Choral Union on hiatus for next year, to allow us time to plan for the future in an appropriate and thoughtful manner.

I am aware of the personal and artistic commitment that many of you had made to the Choral Union over the years. Our decision to suspend the Choral Union's activities for the time being was made only after lengthy discussions with members of Juilliard's Senior Staff. I believe it is the best and most prudent approach for choral activities at Juilliard in the current environment.

Thank you for understanding in this matter, and I hope that you will enjoy a restful and productive summer.


Joseph W. Polisi

I hope that President Polisi is true to his word, and that the ensemble is merely on a one year hiatus as Juilliard makes up its mind what it wants to do with the choral singing aspect of its curriculum. The Juilliard Choral Union was part of the Juilliard Evening Division, and it offered the Juilliard community as well as tri-state area singers the chance to be part of the classical musical scene in New York. Let us hope that one day we can be back making music once again.


Anonymous said...

The whole thing smells to me. Any idea of what was going on behind the scenes that made her resign? She probably felt she had to go when they reduced the performance schedule--- can't blame her. A shame.

Anonymous said...

I was a former singer in the Choral Union, and I sincerely think Polisi was pushing Judith away from it..... she has always had a bite to her attitude, but it was purely for her love of the music, and it created a beautiful sound. As a former student of Juilliard, I hope that it is only a year-long break.... and that the Choral Union comes back- it was an amazing experience!