Clark Foresees Noteworthy Year Ahead
New Director of Choral Activities has ambitious plans for the Holden Choirs, including record deals
Professor Andrew G. Clark had a busy weekend. The new Director of Choral Activities was tasked with leading more than 100 students from the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society on a weekend retreat. This retreat was no spa getaway—rather, it included hours of focused rehearsal and spirited community-building.
Last spring, Harvard University announced that Clark would replace Dr. Jameson Marvin as Director. “It is very intimidating,” Clark says of the legacy Marvin left after conducting for three decades at Harvard. “His shoes are impossibly large to fill.” Clark, however, plans to expand Harvard’s rich choral culture into an ambitious scholarly enterprise.
Clark’s post as Choral Director (who oversees the Holden Voice Program and the Holden Choirs: the Glee Club, the Radcliffe Choral Society, the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus, and directs the former three) is actually his second stint at Harvard. After completing graduate work at Carnegie Mellon University, Clark started as Assistant Conductor of the Collegium Musicum under Marvin in 2001. “I learned a lot from Dr. Marvin about the mechanics of how to run a choral program. I was counting my lucky stars all summer that I had that time to work with him,” Clark says.
Returning to Harvard after seven years at Tufts, Clark will split his time between the Holden Choirs and music department classes. Elizabeth Craft, the teaching fellow for Clark’s Music 121a: “Choral Conducting” course, remarks that Clark’s friendly energy creates a comfortable environment for his students. He often shares his own experiences with them. “Students love to sing for him,” adds Kevin Leong, Associate Conductor of the Holden Choirs. Clark plans to incorporate features of music department curricula into his concerts: “A lot of our programs will interface with music department courses, as a way to partner with my colleagues and give students a chance to see this music up close.” Clark has enjoyed the freedom and license granted to him by the music department, which has allowed him to explore his topics of interest, primarily in the lecture hall. “The department has been great—they’ve made me feel like I’m part of the team,” he says.
As director of the Holden Choirs, Clark has so far planned a rigorous schedule of concert tours, including trips to Austria and Germany for the Collegium Musicum, concerts in southern California for the Radcliffe Choral Society, and a trek through the American Midwest for the Glee Club.
Clark is also devising bold artistic ventures for the upcoming year. The choral season will culminate at the spring Arts First festival, when the three Holden Choirs will join the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra for a program comprising Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Boston premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “On the Transmigration of Souls,” composed by American John C. Adams ’69. This collaboration usually takes place biannually. Clark says, “It’s something I’d like to do more often and I’m really looking forward to having Federico [Cortese, Director of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra] as a teammate and artistic partner.”
Additionally, Clark hopes to expand the choirs’ historical and scholarly output by performing and endorsing rarely-heard twentieth-century American choral works—what he calls an “artistic treasure hunt” in search of forgotten gems. He wants to document and disseminate these works with new recordings and score editions. However, Clark still intends to continue the Marvin tradition of programming significant, canonical works. “One of my responsibilities is to introduce students to great works of art,” he says, referring to pieces by Beethoven and Brahms. As a long-term goal, Clark intends to raise the choral program’s esteem to even greater heights by producing a Harvard series of recordings or even founding an in-house record label. A recording and publishing setup would grant Clark the ability to make Harvard’s “enormous treasury of archival recordings” available worldwide, either digitally or in CD format.
Clark acknowledges that he has been given free reign to shape the future of Harvard’s choral program, and he is ever grateful to the mentorship of Marvin and the dedicated student groups he now leads. “[The choirs] have demonstrated that musicians don’t have to choose between talent and community.” He continues, “The students have been extremely generous and thoughtful as this transition moves along. I’m having a lot of fun, and everyone is allowing me to be myself.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: September 22, 2010
An earlier version of the Sept. 21 arts article "Clark Foresees Noteworthy Year Year Ahead" incorrectly stated that the Harvard Radcliffe Collegium Musicum is planning to go on tour to Israel and Egypt.