The Dessoff Choirs is one of New York City’s leading choruses. Founded in 1924 by Margarete Dessoff, the group has a reputation for pioneering performances of choral works from the pre-Baroque era through the 21st century. The plural “s” in Choirs connotes the group’s 50-voice core; the Symphonic Choir, assembled for larger collaborative engagements; and the smaller Chamber Choir, for more intimate works.
Dessoff produces a New York concert series each year. Over the course of 95 seasons, it has presented world premieres by Virgil Thomson, George Perle, Paul Moravec, Ricky Ian Gordon, Eve Beglarian, and Matthew Aucoin. Dessoff collaborates frequently with local and visiting ensembles, appearing in the US premieres of Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 5 and John Tavener’s all-night vigil, The Veil of the Temple. The group’s most recent Lincoln Center appearance was in February, with Roomful of Teeth. Other recent engagements have ranged from Lorin Maazel’s final performances as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, to an East Coast tour with British rock star Ray Davies.
In the mid-20th century, Dessoff published 48 editions of the Dessoff Choir Series and released 13 LPs, introducing Renaissance music to a US audience. Dessoff’s most recent CD is Margaret Bonds: The Ballad of the Brown King & Selected Songs, the world premiere recording of Bonds’s magnum opus, released in November 2019 on Avie Records.
Conductor and baritone Malcolm J. Merriweather is the ninth music director of The Dessoff Choirs. He is an associate professor and director of choral studies at Brooklyn College, where he directs the Brooklyn College Symphonic Choir of the City University of New York. He is artistic director of Voices of Haiti, a children’s choir operated by the Andrea Bocelli Foundation. He has conducted ensembles in venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, and Westminster Abbey, and at the Vatican before Pope Francis.
Mr. Merriweather’s 2019–20 season highlights include the release of two major recordings. With Dessoff, he conducts and performs on Margaret Bonds: The Ballad of the Brown King & Selected Songs (Avie Records); in this new arrangement, he scored Bonds’s 1954 work for orchestra for strings, harp, and organ. He is also the baritone soloist in the Oratorio Society of New York’s recording of Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell’s Sanctuary Road (Naxos). He has been featured as a soloist throughout the United States and premiered dozens of contemporary solo works.
A fellowship recipient at Tanglewood, Mr. Merriweather holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Syracuse University.
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Malcolm J. Merriweather, director