The Crossing to present ‘Month of Moderns’ on the Hill

by Michael Caruso
Posted 6/13/24

Donald Nally will conduct The Crossing’s “Month of Moderns” concerts, Saturday, June 15, at 5 p.m., and Thursday, June 27, at 7 p.m.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

The Crossing to present ‘Month of Moderns’ on the Hill


Donald Nally will conduct The Crossing’s “Month of Moderns” concerts, Saturday, June 15, at 5 p.m., and Thursday, June 27, at 7 p.m. Both performances will be at the choir’s local home base, the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave.

 “Month of Moderns 1” carries the title of “Not so Much Watching as Waiting.” It features music composed by Gabriel Jackson, Stacy Garrop, Kile Smith, Ayanna Woods, Robert Maggio, Joseph C. Phillips and Santa Ratniece. Organist Scott Dettra and harpist Elizabeth Steiner will join Nally and the choir.

 It’s about, “The things we live with, that are tough to discuss. Heard, in the hopeful paradigm of singing together. Listening, in the joyful event of being together. Storytelling, through the lens of some brilliant composers. Mountains and lakes, aging and Alzheimer’s, Gun Violence, Oil Spills, the Destinies of Souls.”

 The moniker of “Month of Moderns 2” is “Prairie in Our Backyard (Inside Edition).” The program includes Joseph C. Phillips’ “The people get tired of dying,” Gabriel Jackson’s “Self-Portrait: Charleston, Orlando” and “Rigwreck,” Kile Smith’s “Jerusalem,” and Ayanna Woods’ “Prairie Smoke.”  

 The spring has also seen the appointment of Shannon McMahon as The Crossing’s newly created position of managing director. She will help the choir to move into its 20th anniversary season, sharing responsibility for company oversight and project development with founder and artistic director Donald Nally. McMahon has been serving as the choir’s primary financial manager for the past four years.

 Nally, who lives in Germantown, explained, “Shannon is a rather remarkable member of our amazing team. Calm and centered, she is among the most optimistic arts administrators I’ve met, and yet she is precise and careful, ensuring that our mission and good organizational health are aligned and in balance. We went through a challenging time earlier this season, and it was Shannon who held the torch, seeing to it that we successfully navigated our way back into good health. We’re back, and with that, a new role that excites us all.” 

 For ticket information either call 215-436-9276 or visit

 Piffaro online

 Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, closed out its 2023-24 season with a concert program entitled “The Glory of the Wind Band: Music from Portugal and Spain.” Due to conflicts with other events, I was unable to attend in-person the ensemble’s local performance last month at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. However, as a fortunate result of Piffaro regularly recording its concerts, I was able to view the program’s rendition online.

 Although I would never suggest that an online encounter in any way fully equates with an in-person experience, I must confess to having been pleasantly surprised about the degree to which the performance was musically and artistically fulfilling.

 The program was something of a historical, musical “Cook’s Tour” of the principal cities of Portugal and Spain where wind bands were especially prominent. The towns included Coimbra, Lisbon, Evora, Zaragoza and Seville. 

 Piffaro’s core members performing were artistic director Priscilla Herreid, Grant Herreid, Greg Ingles and Erik Schmalz. Guests this time around included Georgeanne Banker, Heloise Degrugillier, Sian Ricketts and Kelsey Schilling. Their instruments of choice included shawm, recorder, bagpipe, doucaine, lute, tabor, percussion, sackbut, straight trumpet and voice.

 The seminal difference between the music of the Renaissance and the Late Middle Ages that preceded it is the moving away from bands comprised of a myriad of different instruments and toward the predominance of complements composed of similar consorts of instruments, such as a consort of recorders or of shawms or of any other family of instruments. 

 The three-fold challenge here for performers is, first, the matching of tone from soprano up at the top of the range to the bass down at the bottom, second, the maintenance of pure tuning, and third, the striking and holding of a balance between all the members of the ensemble.

 Over the years that I’ve heard Piffaro in live concerts and now, online, I’ve always been impressed with the players to not just meet these challenges but to surpass them with flying colors. Once again, they did so superbly – both technically and musically.

  I was especially impressed by the purity of tone, tuning and balances proffered by the recorders. They projected a heavenly sweetness and beguiling lyricism that was nothing short of breathtaking.

 You can contact NOTEWORTHY at