Robert De Cormier
Robert De Cormier was the acclaimed music director of the New York Choral Society for 17 years. Under his leadership the group became renowned for its high standard of excellence in choral singing and unique variety of programming.
As Music Director Emeritus, he guest conducted a performance of the Verdi Requiem in 1990, the Berlioz Requiem at St. Paul’s Cathedral, New York City in 1992 and the premiere of a commissioned work, the Missa Iona in 1993 at St. Bartholomew’s in New York City. During the 1995-96 season he conducted the operas, Brundibar and The Emperor of Atlantis in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and at Merkin Concert Hall in New York.
He has conducted the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in performances of the Mozart C Minor Mass, the Verdi Requiem, Vaughan Williams’s Dona Nobis Pacem, Haydn’s Creation, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and the Brahms Requiem.
A graduate of the Julliard School of Music, Mr. De Cormier’s conducting engagements have taken him from Broadway and opera to the Berkshire Choral Institute, the Zimriya World Assembly of Choirs in Israel and numerous concert tours nationally and internationally with his own professional group, the Robert De Cormier Singers.
He spent several years as conductor and arranger for Harry Belafonte and has been music director for the popular folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary for the past 27 years.
In 1993, he was invited to help establish and develop the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus. As its director, he both prepares and conducts performances with the symphony. He founded Counterpoint in 2000 and the professional vocal ensemble, now in its tenth year, has performed concerts throughout Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. They made their first national tour through the midwest in 2008-09. Their CDs include When The Rabbi Danced, Shalom, Noel We Sing, Missa Criolla, Let Me Fly, Christmas in Vermont and Premieres.
He has written several works ranging from choral to ballet to Broadway scores. His cantata, The Jolly Beggars, based on the poetry of Robert Burns, premiered in New York to critical acclaim. His ballet score, Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder, is in the active repertoire of the Alvin Alley Dance Theater. His choral works, Legacy, Four Sonnets to Orpheus, Shout for Joy and Under a Greenwood Tree were premiered at Carnegie Hall by the New York Choral Society. Spiritual Suite, commissioned by the West Village Chorale, premiered in New York in 1991.
Mr. De Cormier has also arranged extensively, from African-American spirituals to American and international folk songs.
Mr. De Cormier’s recordings include three Christmas albums on the Arabesque label with the De Cormier Singers; the Kodaly Missa Brevis and Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G Minor on Vox Turnabout with the New York Choral Society; Songs of Liberty for Book-of-the-Month Club with the Choral Society and the De Cormier Singers; Carmina Burana for Newport Classics; Paul Alan Levi’s Mark Twain Suite, De Cormier’s Legacy and Four Sonnets to Orpheus for Centaur, and Christmastide with Jessye Norman for Philips. His most recent recording, The Prague Sessions, for Rhino Records, celebrates the life of the late Mary Travers of Peter Paul & Mary, with orchestrations created by De Cormier for many of their most popular songs, recorded with members of the Prague Philharmonic in the fall of 2009 and dedicated to Mary Travers.
A recording of John Dowland’s music Awake, Sweet Love, with Julianne Baird and the De Cormier Singers, was released by Arabesque in 1992 and Noel We Sing with the Choral Society was a Musical Heritage release in 1994. Recent Arabesque releases include: Oh, You Beautiful Doll, early 20th century popular American songs, Children, Go Where I Send Thee, international Christmas songs, two operas from the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia; Brundibar, a children’s opera by Hans Krasa and The Emperor of Atlantis, composed by Viktor Ullmann. The Jolly Beggars, De Cormier’s settings of Robert Burns poetry, was released by Arabesque in May 1998. Mr. De Cormier’s television credits include a three-part series of Choral Folk Songs for the BBC and an Emmy award winning special with Harry Belafonte.
More recently, for Thames TV, he conducted Christmastide with Jessye Norman and for PBS, with Peter, Paul and Mary — A Holiday Concert, Peter, Paul and Mommy Too, and Lifelines. Mr. De Cormier was the choral director for a combined concert, PBS television special and recording starring Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle, conducted by James Levine. He is also credited as choral director for the PBS Special, Christmas at Carnegie with Kathleen Battle and Frederica Von Stade, conducted by Andre Previn.
Mr. De Cormier has served on the New York State Council for the Arts, been a member of the Choral Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. His awards include the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, Lifetime Achievement Awards from Choral Arts New England and the New York Choral Society, and in 2007 an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Middlebury College.