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On October 27 at Advent Lutheran Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, lovers of vocal harmony were treated to the world premiere of five sparkling new ASCAP choral works, performed by Maestro Harold Rosenbaum and his New York Virtuoso Singers (with some assistance from The Canticum Novum Youth Choir, ably prepared by Edie Rosenbaum). The concert was part of an ongoing project involving the commissioning of 50 new works by ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award recipients, a project that has given the world a staggering 45 new choral works so far.

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Conductor Harold Rosenbaum led this cosmic journey with an assurance and care for detail that was reflected in the chorus’s ripe phrasing and the subtle colorations of the American Brass Quintet. To read the full review from New York Classical Review,

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said that “the human voice is the organ of the soul.” Choral conductor Harold Rosenbaum has channeled that sentiment into his art form, which is his passion and his livelihood.

“I think the human voice is the most expressive instrument,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s the soul speaking through tones—the innermost feelings being portrayed through pitches.”

The silver-haired conductor has lived in South Salem for 30 years and has served as the organist and choir director at the South Salem Presbyterian Church. He has also diligently carved a name for himself as a foremost interpreter of choral music.

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When a musical omnivore such as Harold Rosenbaum declares that the concert you are about to hear is “the most diverse program I have conducted in my forty year career,” hang on to your seat! On Sunday March 3rd, Rosenbaum led the New York Virtuoso Singers in the aforementioned amply diverse program in a concert at Merkin Hall. A baker’s dozen of new pieces, part of an ambitious commissioning project: 25 pieces to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary.

While the selections were stylistically diverse, there was a unifying thread. All of the composers had done their homework, and composed with the formidable capabilities of NYVS in mind. The ensemble lived up to its reputation for peerless preparation, assaying all of the pieces with fortitude and an almost intimidating level of technical skill. Intonation and rhythm, regular pitfalls for mortal choirs, proved scarcely to be hurdles for the singers, even in the thorniest of passages. And there were plenty of those provided to them on Sunday afternoon.

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On October 21, Harold Rosenbaum opened the 25th Season of The New York Virtuoso Singers with the first of two celebratory concerts featuring new works commissioned especially for the year-long anniversary celebration.

For more than two decades, New York City audiences have been able to count on Rosenbaum’s commitment to contemporary choral music for artistic excellence and integrity. A relationship of camaraderie, respect and trust exists among the musicians, the composers, Rosenbaum and The New York Virtuoso Singers’ audiences. This first concert of the celebratory season had an almost intimate feel to it: this was not an afternoon of pomp and grandeur, but of artistic conviviality and musical felicity.

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25 years, 25 composers: founded in 1988, the New York Virtuoso Singers are celebrating a quarter century of music-making by commissioning and performing works by over two dozen of today’s most celebrated composers. Under conductor Harold Rosenbaum, the Virtuoso Singers have always been friends of contemporary music, but with this latest project, they’ve created – all at once – a little repertoire of important contemporary choral works.

The proof is in the recording. “25 x 25,” a new two-disc set compiling their anniversary commissions, is a dazzling little jewel-box of choral writing that demonstrates the ensemble’s willingness to live up to their name. These composers have come up with 25 different approaches towards the process of writing for the human voice, and the results are 25 different examples of choral virtuosity.

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By Ronald E. Grames

When I interviewed flutist, poet, and composer Katherine Hoover for the July/August 2016 issue (Fanfare 39:6) I commented that Parnassus records had, with its several releases, touched on every aspect of Hoover’s art. I was wrong, as this new CD proves. Hoover is a fine composer of choral music as well, and thanks to a new recording initiative by Harold Rosenbaum and his acclaimed chorus, The New York Virtuoso Singers, we are now able to hear a good sampling of her small but significant body of work for vocal ensemble. That includes a striking setting of poetry by Walt Whitman, in the form of a liturgy for the dead, titled Requiem for the Innocent.

The last interview was with Hoover alone, but this time the composer asked that her partner in this project be a partner in the conversation. So we got a three-way email discussion of the music and the recording started even as the audio and documentation were in final preparations for publication.

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By Roberta Hershenson, The New York Times, June 22, 2008

The conductor Harold Rosenbaum, recent recipient of the Laurel Leaf Award from the American Composers Alliance, sees choral composers today as a neglected species. Avocational or school choruses, which account for most choruses in the United States, are reluctant to tackle music they fear will be overly complex, he says. Music publishers fear contemporary works will be too atonal to sell. But Mr. Rosenbaum has made it his mission to open resistant minds and ears. “There’s so much wonderful contemporary choral music out there,” he said. “Composers are very frustrated.”

So it was not surprising that when Mr. Rosenbaum received his award in Manhattan on June 4 – presented in recognition of “distinguished achievement in fostering and encouraging the performance of new American works” – he deferred to composers themselves in his acceptance speech. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for gifted composers around the country,” he said from the stage. “I wouldn’t be here tonight if it weren’t for their unbelievable talent and passion for the music of our time.”

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by Donna Shoemaker, from the alumni magazine of Queens College.

With his baton, Harold Rosenbaum ’72, ’74 MA directs both renowned soloists and amateurs, from youths to seniors, up dizzying choral heights. Over four decades he has sounded these high notes: choral conductor with 450-plus world premières and more than 1,500 concerts—almost 100 in Europe . . . founder of six choral groups and maestro of about 30 others . . . collaborator with more than 100 leading orchestras, opera companies, and other ensembles . . . associate professor of music at the University of Buffalo . . . faculty member at his alma mater (1972-1998) . . . namesake of the choral music series of the world’s largest music publisher, G. Schirmer Music . . . organist and choir director at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Katonah, NY . . . pianist, editor, composer, coach, consultant, and clinician.

Rosenbaum “is not scared stiff of anything offbeat,” notes Allen Brings ’55, composer, pianist, and QC professor emeritus of music. Contemporary choral composers find in Rosenbaum and his New York Virtuoso Singers the ideal interpreters. This professional chamber choir, which he founded in 1988, is undaunted by their most complex compositions.

While he has commissioned 50 of today’s best choral composers, Rosenbaum also champions what he calls “the up-and-comers who need the money.” For his annual competition and from unsolicited stacks, each year he reviews 400 to 500 scores—8,500 to date. “I get immense pleasure in finding a jewel,” he says. “I always call the winners because I like to hear their happiness.” Rosenbaum “has perfect pitch of a very highly refined nature,” says Raymond Erickson, QC professor emeritus of music, early music authority, and harpsichordist. “That’s one of the reasons he can take on this extremely difficult music—he can hear it in his head.” Adds Erickson, “Intense, uncompromising, Rosenbaum lives for the art and not the applause. There are few people in the artistic world who are so fundamentally self-effacing.”

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Harold Rosenbaum talks quickly, his voice breaking up momentarily on his cellphone as his Manhattan-bound train pulls into a station.

“I love what I do. I guess I’m just driven,” Rosenbaum says of his head-spinning schedule. In addition to directing two student choirs and heading the graduate program in choral conducting as an associate professor of music at UB, he leads weekly “Sunday Seminars” in conducting at Columbia University in New York, and regularly shuttles between Buffalo, New York and Europe juggling several conducting, consulting and judging projects.

During one crazy season, he recalls, he was artistic director of 11 choirs in New York, most of which met weekly at opposite ends of the state.

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County people and places that strike a chord with renowned choral conductor Harold Rosenbaum.

Ancient houses. Not by European standards, but who cares?

Barber in Cross River, who also replaces watchbands. It reminds me of the Wild West, where barbers also extracted teeth!

Copland House in Cortlandt Manor. Yes, Aaron actually lived there. I conducted his choral masterpiece In the Beginning at his 80th birthday celebration at Symphony Space in NYC.

Dirt roads. Sure, they can be a muddy mess when it rains, but they are a nice reminder of our past.
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