Editor’s Note: The following article was originally published in June 2022. A dessert reception to celebrate the TCNJ Chorale’s commercial release of “Song of the Shulamite” will take place in the Pelson Lobby of the Music Building after the TCNJ Chorale Concert on Friday, Oct. 14. The recording will be played in Mildred Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall during the reception for all who would like to listen to part or all of it in the space in which it was recorded. To purchase tickets for the concert, visit TCNJ Center for the Arts Ticket Office.
This summer, TCNJ Chorale celebrated its first commercial album release with the debut of “Song of the Shulamite.” The album is now available for streaming and purchase on CD and all major digital download platforms.
The “Song of the Shulamite” is the love story of the Song of Solomon – the courtship between the beautiful, young field worker (the Shulamite), and her young lover, King Solomon. It is told in six movements with a unique ensemble of soprano solo, mixed chorus, harp, marimba and vibraphone.
The album’s recording took place in Mayo Concert Hall in May 2015, following the Chorale’s performance of the piece at The Great Music Concert Series at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City that spring.
“After the performance in New York, a respected music colleague came up to me and said that we needed to record the work. I took that vote of confidence in the musicians seriously, and we got right to it,” explained John P. Leonard, director of choral activities and professor of music. “I sent performance recordings to the composer, Don McCullough, who approved the recording project. He and I went over the performance recordings meticulously so that the official recording best reflected his vision for the work.”
“I am so grateful to have such a beautifully insightful interpretation of ‘Song of the Shulamite’ available to the public through this recording. Even with its rich metaphoric language, this expression of such passionate love still manages to speak with nuanced frankness,” said Donald McCullough. “My hat goes off to these artists who showed their artistic prowess in deftly walking such a fine line.”
The recording features Leonard as conductor; 35 student vocalists in the Chorale, soprano and Grammy-nominated artist Jessica Beebe; harpist Adrienne Knauer; Heather Freund ’16 on vibraphone; and Bill Trigg, adjunct instructor of music and area coordinator of percussion, on marimba. Mark Kalinowski, concert hall and recording studio manager, was the audio engineer, and Philip Cave, adjunct music faculty, produced the recording.
“Working on Song of the Shulamite was the experience of a lifetime. From the rehearsal process, to live performances, to the recording sessions, Dr. Leonard expertly led us to utmost creative expression and artistry,” says Katie Kershaw ’17, who received a B.M. in music education and currently serves as the chorus teacher at Chestnut Ridge Middle School. “The collaboration with professional artists, TCNJ faculty, and my musical peers was such a unique opportunity and I am so excited for the release of the recording.”
Leonard said the recording is a “great showcase for the level of music-making that happens at TCNJ.”
“I have to thank Don McCullough and Philip Cave, and most especially Mark Kalinowski. We could not have done it without Mark. This project is as much his as it is mine. He is an incredible artist and technician,” Leonard said. “Our combined hard work has paid off and it feels great to be able to share the amazing talents of TCNJ’s musicians with the world beyond the live stage.”
The recording is available for purchase on CD in select stores and through major streaming and downloading services, including Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. The album’s record label, Centaur Records, Inc., is one of the oldest and largest independent classical labels in the U.S.
– Meaghan Resta
Album cover painting: Solomon and the Shulamite by Marie Hart. Oil and wax impasto on canvas, 100cm x 75cm. ©2010, used by permission.