1979 to present
Since 1979, Princeton Pro Musica has presented dozens of concerts to the delight of thousands of listeners at venues in Princeton and throughout Mercer and nearby Counties. See PPM Repertoire History 1979-2012. In addition to performing major choral-orchestral works independently, the chorus has sung by invitation with the Concert Royale, Opera Orchestra of New York, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Riverside Symphonia, and Westfield Symphony among others. Princeton Pro Musica has also performed abroad on concert tours every few years. In June 2014, PPM toured Croatia performing in three cities and opening the “Nights in the Euphrasian Basilica” music festival in Poreč. During the summer of 2017, Princeton Pro Musica toured northwestern Spain presenting concerts to capacity audiences in historic venues in Santiago de Compostela, León, and Bilbao.
With increasing frequency, Princeton Pro Musica has performed choral and choral-orchestral works by contemporary composers and featured pieces by American composers including Samuel Barber, Dave Brubeck, René Clausen, Edward T. Cone, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Libby Larson, Morton Lauridsen, and Jeffrey Van.
Princeton Pro Musica values the talent and dedication of the hundreds of singers who have populated its ranks since 1979. Many singers have been members of Princeton Pro Musica for ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Some of its members were even part of the first few seasons of the organization. Each season, the organization welcomes new members, some of whom have recently graduated from undergraduate study, are beginning graduate study, have recently moved to the area, or have decided to return to their musical passions. All members re-audition each season regardless of the length of their tenure and renew their commitment to excellence.
Since 2012, the ensemble tackled a wide variety of repertoire at the highest level and has distinguished itself in this pursuit, earning nationwide, statewide, and local recognition. See PPM Repertoire 2012-2016. Locally, PPM routinely garners high praise for performance of a wide variety of repertoire. In 2013 and 2014, PPM was named a finalist in the nationwide American Prize competition, community chorus division; in 2015 PPM earned the 2nd place prize in the community chorus division. In 2009, the ensemble was invited to perform at the ACDA eastern division conference in Philadelphia. PPM has received grants from the Edward T. Cone Foundation, The Scheide Fund, Chorus America, and the Church & Dwight Employee Giving Fund. The ensemble is funded in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New Jersey Cultural Trust.
Since 1979, Princeton Pro Musica has sought primarily to preserve and prove, through excellence in performance, the vitality of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic choral-orchestral masterworks at the core of the Western canon. Recent seasons have seen artistic triumphs with masterworks by J. S. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Vaughan Williams, Fauré, Rachmaninoff, and others. Since 2012, the Artistic Director has made a concerted effort to more frequently expand the repertoire of PPM beyond this core repertory to introduce its audience frequently to more contemporary music and music outside the Germanic/European mainstream. PPM’s repertoire spans the full spectrum of choral music from the Renaissance to premieres of works from the present day. Successful forays into masterworks by Arvo Pärt, Herbert Howells, John Rutter, and others have opened the ears of PPM’s audiences to these essential contemporary voices. In March 2016, Princeton Pro Musica performed Ēriks Ešenvalds’ Passion and Resurrection. Princeton Pro Musica also relishes its role as advocate for the music of America. The May 2013 concert of American music blended well-loved classical pieces with folk songs, hymns, and premieres of new works by American composers. PPM’s November 2014 concert for Veterans’ Day included the work of Aaron Copland and Jeffrey Van and featured the first performance since 1941 of a work by Princeton theorist and composer Edward T. Cone. In May of 2016, PPM again dedicated an entire subscription concert to American music. The performance included the New Jersey premiere of René Clausen’s Now Talking God which PPM co-commissioned through Chorus America’s commissioning project, and featured the works of Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Alice Parker, and Eric Whitacre.
To reflect on and deepen the experience of the larger works, Dr. Brandau has also enhanced PPM’s Chamber Chorus and blended the group into subscription concerts performing masterpieces from the chamber literature like Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer as well as very recent works by American composers including Eric Whitacre, Stephen Paulus, Zachary Wadsworth, Jeffrey Van and others. Princeton Pro Musica also introduced audiences to historical performance – performing the works of Bach and Handel with Baroque period-instrument ensembles. Princeton Pro Musica’s orchestra is often featured on subscription programs through performances of concertos, suites, overtures, and other orchestral pieces. Recent seasons have included the Bach’s Concerto for Violin in E Major, Beethoven’s Romance for Violin in G Major, Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ in G Minor, Rheinberger’s Concerto for Organ in G Mjinor, Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Handel’s Concerto Grosso No. 6 in G Major, and other instrumental selections.
Princeton Pro Musica’s commitment to choral excellence has engendered orchestral and solo vocal excellence. Because of their repeated positive responses to PPM’s preparation, outstanding professional orchestral musicians return eagerly to form Princeton Pro Musica’s orchestra. On the strength of the reputation and experience of working with its singers and artistic director, Princeton Pro Musica has been able to hire orchestral musicians who appear with groups such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. Princeton Pro Musica has also created period-instrument orchestras comprising the finest Baroque players on the eastern seaboard, including: faculty of Julliard’s Historical Performance Program, members of Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, and musicians of the Trinity Baroque Orchestra of Trinity Wall Street. Similarly, PPM is able to attract top-caliber vocal soloists – singers who consistently earn praise in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, and other publications and GRAMMY nominations and awards for their work with some of our country’s finest professional ensembles.
Committed to collaboration, Princeton Pro Musica has performed with The American Repertory Ballet, Princeton GirlChoir, and choirs from Robbinsville High School, Hopewell Valley Central High School, and Pennsbury High School. In the 2016-2017 season, Princeton Pro Musica commissioned the Roxey Ballet to create new choreography for several movements of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and collaborated with the Trenton Children’s Chorus, Princeton GirlChoir, and the Polydora Ensemble. In the 2017-18 season, PPM again collaborated with the Trenton Children’s Chorus for the holiday concert and, on March 3, 2018, hosted choirs from Princeton High School and Bridgewater High School and the Kantorei ensemble from Westminster Choir College in a choral festival presenting the Monteverdi Vespers in concert. On April 27 & 28, 2018, Princeton Pro Musica sang Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem as guests of the Princeton University Glee Club and Princeton University Orchestra. In the 2018-19 season, Princeton Pro Musica will again partner with Trenton Children’s Chorus to present the annual holiday concert on December 9, 2018 and commission Roxey Ballet to create new choreography for remaining movements of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in March of 2019. For the final concert of the 40th Anniversary 2018-19 season on May 4, PPM will welcome back founding Artistic Director Frances Fowler Slade to share the podium with Artistic Director Ryan James Brandau presenting a Musical Feast including favorites from Handel’s Messiah.
Princeton Pro Musica is committed to using its music to enrich and serve the community. For many years, Princeton Pro Musica has provided music for the commencement ceremony of Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, New Jersey. In recent years, the Chamber Chorus has sung annually for the Guild for Early Music festival at the Grounds for Sculpture in Trenton, and Princeton Pro Musica launched several initiatives to educate and reach out to its audience, high school age choral artists (to interact with members of PPM and other area ensembles) and those who teach them, singers of all ages in the community, and seniors in the greater Princeton community.
Princeton Pro Musica appreciates the academic interests and inquisitive nature of its audience and has sought to help its listeners engage in the history and context of the works it presents. Princeton Pro Musica offered symposia before its May 2013 and May 2014 concert programs, in which experts such as Dr. Wendy Heller of Princeton University, Dr. Andrew Megill, Dr. Joyce Irwin and others, sat on a panel moderated by the Artistic Director to discuss topics surrounding the concert programs (American Choral Music and Handel’s Oratorios). Throughout 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, Princeton Pro Musica offered pre-concert lectures before each of its concerts given by Dr. Brandau himself or one of a team of local PhD experts. Artistic Director Ryan Brandau provides audience members with substantive, essay-length program notes in each concert program that combine history, analysis, and contemporary issues to illuminate the rationale for and potential impact of the music chosen. To access an archive of Dr. Brandau’s program notes, visit PPM Program Notes. For the November 2013 PPM concert (Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem), Dr. Brandau created a 30-minute video podcast based on an interview he conducted with Dr. Jeffrey Douma of Yale University.
Dr. Brandau was the headliner guest conductor of the festival concert combining five area high schools in November 2013, and he served as an adjudicator at the NJACDA High School Choral Festival in May 2014. He also led vocal clinics for several area high schools.
In 2014, Princeton Pro Musica created a Choral Festival to bring local high school choruses together with the full chorus & chamber chorus of PPM and an elite all-professional vocal ensemble whose members were drawn from groups such as Conspirare, Seraphic Fire, New York Polyphony, and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. In the glorious acoustic of the Princeton University Chapel, approximately 200 singers gathered to sing joint repertoire and sing for each other. At the Festival, Artistic Director Ryan Brandau led workshops with each chorus, and the professional vocal ensemble held a workshop question/answer session with all of the high school singers, discussing small ensemble techniques and the life of a full-time professional choral musician. Because of the success of this program, Princeton Pro Musica intends to hold another festival using the same model in the near future.
For the fall 2015 performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Princeton Pro Musica collaborated with the Princeton Girlchoir, one of Princeton’s cherished musical organizations, in an effort to extend to those young women the opportunity to perform as part of a large choral-orchestral work with soloists and a professional orchestra of the highest caliber. Members of this ensemble worked with Dr. Brandau to prepare the trio, “Lift Thine Eyes,” which they performed in concert. Dr. Brandau also auditioned twelve young women to sing the role of “the youth” in the oratorio, giving them all the chance to prepare a solo audition, and giving one member the opportunity to sing the role in concert.
Princeton Pro Musica invited the Trenton Children’s Choir as guest artists for the Holiday Classics concert in December, 2016 and 2017. To present Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in May 2017, Princeton Pro Musica collaborated with both the Princeton Girlchoir and the Roxey Ballet. In March 2018, Princeton Pro Musica will again host a choral festival in which Princeton High School, Bridgewater High School, and the Kantorei ensemble of Westminster Choir College will interact in workshops and join with PPM Singers to present Monteverdi’s Vespers in concert in the Princeton University Chapel.
Outreach to Singers of all Ages
In Spring 2014, Princeton Pro Musica performed Handel’s Israel in Egypt and another area chorus, Voices, performed Handel’s Samson. In advance of these two performances, Princeton Pro Musica organized a two-part workshop on performing the choral and solo music of Handel geared toward members of area choruses. All singers from Princeton Pro Musica and Voices were invited, and the workshop was advertised to members of church choirs and other choruses throughout the area. The morning session comprised a lecture-demonstration, “Choral Coloratura,” on the vocal technique of singing coloratura, with Dr. Amanda Quist of Westminster Choir College. The afternoon session, on singing Handel’s solo arias, was led by Martha Elliott of Princeton University, author of Singing With Style and Judith Nicosia, a voice teacher at Rutgers University, and President of the New York Singing Teachers Association.
In recent years, Princeton Pro Musica significantly expanded its outreach to the dynamic senior community of the greater Princeton area. The Chamber Chorus created a series of concert programs (holiday, Valentine’s Day, etc.) suited to performances at local senior residences. These programs were very positively received by staff and residents of communities. In December 2015, for instance, the Chamber Chorus performed an excellent holiday program at three different senior residences in one week. Princeton Pro Musica also facilitates transportation from these senior residences to Princeton Pro Musica subscription concerts. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Dr. Brandau, pro bono, offered a four-lecture course on classical music at the Princeton Senior Resource Center Evergreen Academy: in 2014, “The Music of Handel and Bach”; in 2015, “The Music of Brahms”; and in 2016, “Music of Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Haydn.”
Vocal Soloists and ensembles 2016-17 Season:
Tim Keeler, counter-tenor
Polydora Ensemble composed of:
Instrumental soloists and ensembles 2016-17 Season:
Johanna Novom, violinist
Eric Plutz, Princeton University Organist
TCNJ Percussion Ensemble, The College of New Jersey
William Trigg, Head TCNJ Percussion Ensemble