by Michael Caruso
Local lovers of choral music were shocked and saddened by the unexpected death of Jeffrey Dinsmore on Monday, April 14, in Los Angeles, where he had just begun rehearsals with The Crossing at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Dinsmore, who was only 42, was a founding member, along with artistic director Donald Nally, of The Crossing, the locally based choir that specializes in contemporary music. He was also an integral part of The Crossing’s predecessor group, The Bridge Ensemble.
Chestnut Hillers often heard Dinsmore’s voice and saw his distinctive handlebar mustache whenever he performed with The Crossing at either the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill or St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. He also sang at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Center City, and with Opera Philadelphia.
Nally wrote in a prepared statement: “I have personally lost my balance, my ‘other half’ in The Crossing, with whom I have spoken daily for the past eight years … Jeff believed in our vision with his characteristic clarity, and he promoted it with his unique precision. In many ways, he ‘was’ The Crossing.”
I knew Jeff as the person who handled public relations for The Crossing. Only just the previous week I received a press release from him informing us at the Local of a musical collaboration between local composer Kyle Smith and the Jenks School here in Chestnut Hill. He was not only a supreme professional but also a warm, enthusiastic and delightful gentleman with whom to work. Permit me to borrow the words of Ernest Sands as a farewell to Jeff Dinsmore: “May the choirs of angels come to greet you. May they speed you to paradise.”
EVENSONG AT ST. PAUL’S
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, marked the beginning of Holy Week with a Choral Evensong “Meditation on the Passion of Christ” Palm Sunday, April 13. The service was so beautifully celebrated that one could hardly question the suggestion that St. Paul’s has become the unofficial cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania in terms of maintaining the Anglican traditions of liturgy and music.
Organ scholar Joseph Russell opened the service with a splendid performance of J.S. Bach’s “Prelude & Fugue in G minor.”
The choir, under music director Zachary Hemenway, opened its part of the liturgy with a lilting rendition of the plainsong setting of the Introit, “Hosanna to the Son in David,” its English translation of the original Latin text equally eloquent. Next on the roster was Gregorio Allegri’s revered “Miserere Mei, Deus.” The score was so treasured by the Holy See that it was a sin punishable by excommunication to take it outside the walls of the Vatican. The young Mozart was taken there by his father during a Holy Week when it was sung at the Sistine Chapel. He immediately copied it down by memory upon returning to their hotel rooms. Thus the world now knows Allegri’s masterpiece and its numerous “High C’s.” St. Paul’s choir sang it beautifully, with the small concertino choir placed up in the loft so that all of those stratospheric high notes floated out over the afternoon’s sizable congregation like voices coming down from Heaven, as smooth as silk.
When the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia presents Julia Wolfe’s “Anthracite Fields” Saturday & Sunday, April 26 & 27, 4 and 7:30 p.m., in the Episcopal Cathedral Church in West Philadelphia, executive director Janelle McCoy of Roxborough will have been one of those most responsible for the world premiere taking place.
McCoy was born and raised in a rural North Carolina town of about 500 in population near the Appalachian Mountains. Although neither of her parents was musical, she was drawn to music at an early age and began studying piano when she was four years old with the wife of a minister — “the only musician in our small town,” she recalled.
“Thankfully, our school district had a visionary band program. While most were focused on splashy marching bands for football season, our teachers gave us transcriptions of classical music for wind and percussion orchestras. We had no string program.” Until she auditioned for the lead in “The Music Man,” no one knew that she had a fine, strong voice that could be heard without amplification at the back of the auditorium.
For ticket information for “Anthracite Fields” visit www.mcchorus.org.