NEC Alumni Robert Aldridge, Herschel Garfein Win Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition
Honored Work is Opera Elmer Gantry, Naxos Recording Features Vocal Alumnus Keith Phares in Title Role
NEC alumni Robert Livingston Aldridge ’80 M.M. and Herschel Garfein ’82 M.M. have won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition at the 54th Annual Awards held Sunday night in Los Angeles. Their opera, Elmer Gantry, features music composed by Aldridge and a libretto written by Garfein (who is a composer himself).
Like many new operas, Elmer Gantry went through a long gestation, including workshop performances in Boston in 1992. Boston singers in the Naxos cast include Keith Phares '00 M.M. in the title role. The Naxos recording was also honored by the Grammys as "Best Engineered Classical Recording."
Based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis, “Elmer Gantry is an all-American opera,” explains former Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer in his program notes. “It presents us with a particular moment in American history, the period early in the twentieth century just before World War I, when popular religion set out to appropriate contemporary business models and when best-selling books argued that if Jesus were to come back today, he would be president of the Rotary Club. But the real subject of the opera is one that runs through all of American history, the pervasive and easily corrupted power of religion.”
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The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions. On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, contemporary improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors. Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.
NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, century-old, beautifully restored concert hall. These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz, contemporary improvisation, and opera scenes. Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre in Boston.
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