O SINGER WHO HAS ever worked with Dr. Alfred Calabrese will ever forget the experience. When he walks into the room, he has “the presence” that my professor of choral methods (Dr. James Daugherty) used to speak about. Mæstro Simon Carrington, who directed our choral program when I first entered the Conservatory, also had “the presence.” What exactly does “the presence” mean? It basically means a particular conductor who enters the room and—when he does—everyone stands up straight and gets ready to work. Everyone wants to do well for a conductor with “the presence.”
I don’t know how you get “the presence.” Maybe they give it to you when you get a doctorate in conducting? Dr. Calabrese earned his doctorate from Indiana University (Bloomington), which has an esteemed music school. For example, one of the most famous musicologists of all time, Willi Apel, taught there. I believe Dr. Horst Buchholz also got a doctorate at Indiana University, and I’d be curious to know whether they knew each other at that time. Sometimes when Dr. Calabrese conducts, he wears a little “pink hood” over his shoulders. I believe that signifies he received a doctorate in the Fine Arts. I have seen Dr. Lucas Tappan also wear that little hood over his shoulder.
On facebook, I recently saw an excerpt of Dr. Calabrese conducting SOLEMN VESPERS at his church, and wanted to share it. If I had to guess, it sounds like Tallis—but don’t quote me on that:
You can watch the full video.
Even on a low-quality recording, the choral sound evoked by Dr. Calabrese sounds, in my humble opinion, quite beautiful; even glorious! 1
IN THE PAST, we have been blessed to have Dr. Calabrese as a guest conductor here in Los Angeles:
We were so sad when the Sacred Music Symposium was canceled (but not permanently) due to Covid-19.
I have been trying to think of way to get Dr. Calabrese to come back to Los Angeles to work with my singers. I think I could raise enough money to provide a proper stipend for him, but the main obstacle has to do with my singers’s schedules—most of them have jobs! I would want them to spend the whole week learning from Dr. Calabrese, but I just don’t know whether their work schedules would allow such a thing. I already push my singers pretty hard, and I don’t know what they would do if I said: “By the way, I also need you to take a full week off work for extra training.”
FUN FACT: The church where Dr. Calabrese conducts? My wife actually used to go there when she lived in Dallas. She saw the video, and she instantly recognized it!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 What’s even more amazing is, they are singing through face masks, just like Andrew Leung’s singers. I suspect they would not be allowed to sing, unless they are wearing face masks. For myself, I could not sing while wearing a face mask—I already have enough problems breathing! Let’s hope this face mask stuff ends soon…and never comes back! But we musicians don’t make the rules.