Tanglewood Festival Chorus
James Burton, BSO Choral Director and Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus
John Oliver, Founder and Conductor Laureate
This season at Symphony Hall, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus joins the Boston Symphony Orchestra for performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 (January 18-20) and Schumann’s Nachtlied and Neujahrslied (February 8-10) under BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons; Grieg’s incidental music to Peer Gynt under BSO Associate Conductor Ken-David Masur (October 19-24); Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust (October 26-28) and Ravel’s complete Daphnis et Chloé (February 15-17) under Charles Dutoit, and Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, Kaddish, under Giancarlo Guerrero (March 15-17). Members of the chorus also participated in this season’s all-Bernstein program on Opening Night. Originally formed under the joint sponsorship of Boston University and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the all-volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus was established in 1970 by its founding conductor John Oliver, who stepped down from his leadership position with the TFC at the end of the 2014 Tanglewood season. Awarded the Tanglewood Medal by the BSO to honor his forty-five years of service to the ensemble, Mr. Oliver now holds the lifetime title of Founder and Conductor Laureate and occupies the Donald and Laurie Peck Master Teacher Chair at the Tanglewood Music Center. In February 2017, having prepared the chorus for that month’s BSO performances of Bach’s B minor Mass led by Andris Nelsons, the British-born James Burton was named the new Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, also being appointed to the newly created position of BSO Choral Director.
Though first established for performances at the BSO’s summer home, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus was soon playing a major role in the BSO’s subscription season as well as BSO concerts at Carnegie Hall. Now numbering more than 300 members, the ensemble performs year-round with the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops. It has performed with Seiji Ozawa and the BSO in Hong Kong and Japan, and with the BSO in Europe under James Levine and Bernard Haitink, also giving a cappella concerts of its own on the two latter occasions. The TFC made its debut in April 1970, in a BSO performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Leonard Bernstein conducting. Its first recording with the orchestra, Berlioz’s La Damnation of Faust with Seiji Ozawa, received a Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance of 1975. The TFC has since made dozens of recordings with the BSO and Boston Pops, with James Levine, Seiji Ozawa, Bernard Haitink, Sir Colin Davis, Leonard Bernstein, Keith Lockhart, and John Williams. In August 2011, with John Oliver conducting and soloist Stephanie Blythe, the TFC gave the world premiere of Alan Smith’s An Unknown Sphere for mezzo-soprano and chorus, commissioned by the BSO for the ensemble’s 40th anniversary. Its most recent recordings on BSO Classics, all drawn from live performances, include a disc of a cappella music led by John Oliver and released to mark the TFC’s 40th anniversary; and, with James Levine conducting, Ravel’s complete Daphnis and Chloé (a 2009 Grammy-winner for Best Orchestral Performance), Brahms’s German Requiem, and William Bolcom’s Eighth Symphony for chorus and orchestra (a BSO 125th Anniversary Commission). Besides their work with the BSO, TFC members have performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic; participated in a Saito Kinen Festival production of Britten’s Peter Grimes under Seiji Ozawa in Japan, and sang Verdi’s Requiem with Charles Dutoit to help close a month-long International Choral Festival given in and around Toronto. The ensemble had the honor of singing at Sen. Edward Kennedy’s funeral; has performed with the Boston Pops for the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics; and can be heard on the soundtracks of Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, John Sayles’s Silver City, and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. TFC members regularly commute from the greater Boston area, western Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, and TFC alumni frequently return each summer from as far away as Florida and California to sing with the chorus at Tanglewood. Throughout its history, the TFC has established itself as a favorite of conductors, soloists, critics, and audiences alike.