Associate Professor Thomas Parente performs in Argentina

On Nov. 29, the chorus Carmina Gaudii, conducted both by Evangelina Burchardt and Parente, presented a concert of Parente’s music.

While most of the Westminster Choir College and Rider University community was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, Associate Professor of Piano Thomas Parente was rehearsing for a performance of his compositions in Parana, Argentina.

On Friday, Nov. 29, the chorus Carmina Gaudii, conducted both by Evangelina Burchardt, and Dr. Parente, presented a concert of Parente’s music titled “This Heavenly Night,” which was taken from the chorale by the same name for three part women’s choir. The program included six choral works and three of his art songs, performed by soprano Cecilia Leyes, a Parana Conservatory faculty member.  Additionally, Parente was joined by pianist Luciano Stizzoli to perform three of his piano duets.

How did a New Jersey-based professor and composer end up with a concert devoted to his music in Argentina?  It began last March when Parente presented a lecture based on his book The Positive Pianist: How Flow can Bring Passion to Practice and Performance (Oxford, 2105) for the piano department at the Catholic University in Buenos Aires. Before traveling to Argentina, he sent several of his works to someone he assumed was the choral director at the University - Evangelina Burchardt.

“She immediately accepted all of the pieces and said that she would be happy to program them in a concert that would take place in late spring (early autumn for in New Jersey) with her choir, Carmina Gaudii,” says Parente. “I asked if we could possibly meet as I would be giving a talk in Buenos Aires. It turned out that instead of being in the city of Buenos Aires, she was 400 kilometers away in Parana. Little did I know that there were actually two Universities with the same name!” Because of the distance, a meeting wasn’t possible, so the first time Parente met Burchardt was when he traveled to Parana for the performance.

In early October he sent to the assistant conductor, Carolina Montiel, a recording of Robin Massie, a member of the Westminster Voice faculty, singing his Three Teasdale Songs. Montiel immediately responded that soprano Cecilia Leyes wished to perform them.  And a day later, Parente received an email letting him know that the choir’s director, Evangelina Burchardt, wanted to devote the entire concert to his works. 

Burchartd also asked if by any chance if he had written any piano duets. He responded that he had written 11, and she asked for three and told him that the choir’s accompanist, Luciano Stizzoli, could perform them with Parente. Additionally, she invited him to share the podium with her and conduct two of his six choral works.

To honor the occasion, the city council of Parana officially declared the performance an “official concert of interest.”

“This was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life,” exclaims Parente. “The warmth, professionalism, meticulous preparation and virtuosic musicality of all the performers, whom I had never met prior to my arrival in Parana, was astonishing. The concert hall at the Conservatory of Music in Parana, Argentina was filled to capacity. In addition to performing the secondo part to three of my piano duets and addressing the audience in Spanish, I had the wonderful experience of conducting the first and last choral works, which the choir sang magnificently. When I turned around after conducting the last piece the entire audience was standing. The standing ovation seemed to last forever. This was followed by an exuberance of affection by many members of the audience who waited so we could hug and kiss. I was even told by several people that they had tears in their eyes while listening to my music. I have now been asked to compose a cantata for Christmas 2020 so I look forward to returning next year. I love Parana and El Coro Carmina Gaudii!”