The Oberlin Musical Union Debuts Under New Conductor

November 17, 2011 — The Oberlin Musical Union, the nation's second-oldest continuing choral tradition, performs under the baton of its new director Jason Harris on Sunday, December 4, at 8:00 p.m. Performing with the Musical Union will be Choir and Sinfonietta (formerly the Oberlin Wind Ensemble), and the program will feature Respighi's Lauda per la Nativita del Signore "Laud to the Nativity" and Honegger's King David. The concert will be held in Finney Chapel, located at 90 North Professor Street in Oberlin; admission is free and no tickets are required.

Composed in 1930, Respighi's cantata Lauda per la Nativita del Signore is a setting of text by the 13th century Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi. It was premiered in 1930 in Siena, under the direction of the composer, and is scored for three vocal soloists, in addition to chorus and wind ensemble. The December 4 performance will feature student soloists from the Oberlin Conservatory's voice department.

Honegger's oratorio King David was originally composed in 1921 as incidental music to the play of the same name by Rene Morax. The twenty-seven segment work tells the story of the biblical king, and it was rewritten in 1923 by Honegger into the piece as it's known today.

Founded in 1837, the 140-voice Oberlin Musical Union is the second-oldest continuing choral tradition in the United States, and will commemorate its 175th anniversary in 2012. Performing the great works for chorus and orchestra, recent presentations include Orff's Carmina Burana, Haydn's Creation, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem, Verdi's Requiem Mass, Poulenc's Gloria, and Beethoven's Missa Solemnes.

Founded in 1929 by Olaf C. Christiansen as the Oberlin A Cappella Choir, the Oberlin College Choir is a select ensemble of College and Conservatory students that performs a wide variety of a cappella and accompanied choral literature. In 1964, under the direction of Robert Fountain, the ensemble sang 39 concerts in the former Soviet Union and in Romania as part of the Cultural Exchange Program of the U. S. State Department. The ensemble also has a history of performing at Severance Hall with The Cleveland Orchestra.

About Jason Harris
Dr. Jason Harris is Assistant Professor of Choral Conducting and Director of Choral Ensembles at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, where he conducts the Oberlin College Choir, Oberlin Treble Ensemble, Oberlin Musical Union, and teaches choral conducting. In 2006 he received two GRAMMY Awards ("Best Choral Performance" and "Best Classical Album") as a choral director for the critically acclaimed Naxos recording of William Bolcom's monumental Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

From 2002 to 2011 Dr. Harris served as Assistant Conductor of the University Musical Society Choral Union, a symphonic community chorus based in Ann Arbor that frequently appears with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In this capacity Dr. Harris has prepared the chorus for performances under conductors such as Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, Sir Neville Marriner, Leonard Slatkin, Neeme Jarvi, James Conlon, Rafael Frunbeck de Burgos, and composer John Adams.

To meet the growing demand for performances of early music in Michigan, Dr. Harris founded Audivi Vocem, a 20-voice chamber ensemble dedicated to the interpretation of rarely heard sacred works of the Renaissance. Recent performances include Tomas Luis de Victoria's Officium Defunctorum, and motets by Hans Leo Hassler, Leonhard Lechner, Heinrich Scharz, and Roland de Lassus.

In 2010 Dr. Harris was one of two conductors in the nation selected by Chorus America to participate in a joint Chorus America/League of Symphony Orchestras conducting master class, hosted by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with Robert Spano and Norman Mackenzie. Dr. Harris has participated in numerous master classes, working with such conducting luminaries as Helmuth Rilling, Matthew Halls, Ragnar Bohlin, Gustav Meier, Jeffrey Kahane, John Alexander, and Charlene Archibeque.

Dr. Harris holds the Bachelor of Music degree in Conducting from Chapman University (CA), and the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Conducting from the University of Michigan, where he served as Assistant Conductor of the UM Chamber Choir, UM Men's Glee Club and UM Women's Glee Club, and conductor of the Residential College Singers, Arts Chorale, Orpheus Singers, and UM Opera Chorus. Dr. Harris has also served on the faculties of Oakland University (MI), Oakland College (MI), and Schoolcraft College (MI). His teachers include Jerry Blackstone, Theodore Morrison, and William Hall.