by MICHAEL CARUSO
When Donald Nally succeeded Mark Anderson a year ago as director of music at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, the appointment was made on an interim basis. As early as October of 2011, the Rev. Cindy Jarvis, the church’s pastor, knew that Nally could very well receive an offer to teach at Northwestern University in Chicago. In the spring of 2012, the offer was made (“the sun, moon and stars” in Jarvis’ words), and Nally accepted.
Nally has been a familiar figure in both the local and international classical music scenes. Here in Philadelphia he has been the music director of the Choral Arts Society, director of the chorus of the Opera Company of Philadelphia and music director of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in center city. He has been choral director of the Chicago Lyric Opera and choral director of the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff, Wales. Founder and director of the now defunct Bridge Ensemble, he will continue as artistic director of The Crossing, a choir specializing in contemporary choral music that regularly performs at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church.
In a letter to the congregation sent earlier this summer, Jarvis explained that the church’s session appointed Daniel Spratlan as director of music and Ken Lovett as assistant director of music. Lovett is best known for his 25 years as music director of the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill. When Nally was appointed interim music director last fall, Lovett was appointed interim church organist.
Jarvis explained that Spratlan is currently an adjunct professor of choral music at Rutgers University, where he will complete his doctoral degree in choral conducting in June of 2013. He already holds degrees from Earlham College and Westminster Choir College. He has worked at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Scarsdale, N.Y. and is also a member of The Crossing.
“When I met Dan during the interview process,” Jarvis said, “I was taken with his genuine excitement about our church, our choir and our church’s place in the musical life of Philadelphia. I had no doubt that he was eager to lead our music ministry into a new and lively future. As we talked about planning worship together, I discovered that he not only brings a deep knowledge of the church’s worship but also an understanding of the interplay of word and music in the service that made sparks fly in my own imagination. Beyond Sunday morning, Dan would like us to consider returning to a music festival that features our own choir, maybe even twice a year.”
Commenting on his expanded role at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian, Lovett said, “I’m pleased to tell you that the session has invited me to become a permanent member of the staff. I’m very much looking forward to working with our new director of music, Dan Spratlan, who is an incredibly talented conductor and a nice guy, to boot.
“I’m having so much fun playing the organ! This is the first time in my professional career that I’ve actually had time to practice. For most church musicians involved with recruiting and conducting choirs, choosing music, planning services, etc., organ practice often falls to the bottom of the list. What a joy to have practice time as my first priority. I’m very thankful to be working for Cindy Jarvis and the folks at PCCH, where they take very seriously their call to support the arts, especially music and musicians.
“This coming season, in addition to playing the organ and accompanying the choir, I’m going to be developing a new music component for the children in the church school. Rather than starting a choir and building repertoire, we’re adding time onto the Sunday Church School hour to focus on music.”