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Friday Choral Connection on WRTI 90.1 with Host Debra Lew Harder

WRTI's weekly feature—Friday Choral Connection—spotlights the heavenly voices of three of Philadelphia’s most esteemed choirs. Tune in every Friday at 1:30 PM to hear choral music at its best. You'll hear performances by Choral Arts Philadelphia, The Crossing, and Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia, all recorded live in concert from their recent seasons. Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough for everyone. Group singing, especially, has been deemed a health hazard. It’s no wonder that so many listeners have told us that choral singing, with its positive energy, its sense of community, its power to move, and its incredible sound, is something they deeply miss.

So, we aim to help fill the void by bringing you performances of these three special, and very different, choirs, in repertoire ranging from Baroque masterpieces to contemporary gems.

"The archives of The Crossing, Choral Arts Philadelphia, and the Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia are incredibly rich resources," says WRTI Classical Music Program Director Heather McDougall. "There was no question the time was right to partner with these great organizations and share our favorite selections with listeners."

The series began on September 4th with Cantata No. 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele,” by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Choral Arts Philadelphia, which specializes in the music of J.S. Bach, as well as new music.

We also heard them perform Praetorius, Schütz, and music of Chelsea Komschlies and Andrew Lipke, among others. At holiday time, we heard their performances of David Ludwig’s Channukah Cantata, J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Part I, and Heinrich Schütz’s Magnificat.

Matthew Glandorf, Choral Arts’ artistic director, explains that “Bach's Cantatas were heard by the full range of society, members of the nobility and workers, rich and poor alike. It is truly communal music, and we are pleased to be able to present some of our live performances of Bach as well as other great works.”

The Crossingwill bring its Grammy-winning, internationally renowned sound to WRTI listeners in music of our time, in premiere performances of such news-making composers as David Lang, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Edie Hill, Caroline Shaw, Julia Wolfe, and others. WRTI listeners will get to experience selections from two acclaimed works by Philadelphia’s own Kile Smith: his Vespers, and The Arc in the Sky.

Donald Nally, The Crossing’s founder and artistic director, says, “The invitation to collaborate with WRTI on revisiting these world-premiere performances through broadcast has brought smiles and tears, as we remember the feeling of being in the room together, the power of ensemble music-making, and the entire community that is a part of creating new pieces and bringing them into the world. We are grateful for the creativity of composers, for the company of our neighboring Philadelphia ensembles featured on the series, for our friends at WRTI with the vision to put this all on the radio, and for the great promise dwelling in the future of our art.”


Finally, Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia brings its 147-year history of music-making and its 100 voices to WRTI’s airwaves in some of the world’s most storied choral works: Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil for à capella chorus, and, just in time for Beethoven’s 250th birth anniversary, selections from his Mass in C, and the complete Choral Fantasy. They’ll also sing music of Temple University’s own Dr. Rollo Dilworth (Credo and Rain Sequence) and William Averitt (Afro-American Fragments.)


Dominick DiOrio, Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia’s new artistic director, says “We are lucky to have a rich history of performances and projects as part of our history, and we are even luckier that WRTI has partnered with us to showcase some of this music so that you can be invited into our music-making too! While this season will look different than any other, the music still plays on, and we will be right there singing with you 'virtually' on WRTI in the coming months!"

This concert season will indeed look different for all of us, but one thing remains the same: the healing power of music on WRTI 90.1. With Friday Choral Connection, you’ll hear it and feel it more than ever. Join us!

The Museum of the American Revolution supports WRTI's Friday Choral Connection. The new exhibition at MAR is "When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807." Details here.


Debra's last day on the air at WRTI was September 21st, 2021. She's now the radio host for The Metropolitan Opera. Read more here.