People: Alumni

A monumental honor

By Anne Sears

Receiving the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance was just one more honor — although a monumental one — for Donald Nally ’87 and The Crossing, whose reputation for choral excellence is widely recognized and growing.

“The Grammy nomination brings a lot of attention, which is welcome and serves our mission perfectly: creating new works that ask questions about our world and about singing, and recording those works with the composers in the room so that they reach many more ears internationally,” says Nally. “The win multiplies that exponentially.”

In addition to the Grammy this year, The Crossing’s commission Sound From The Bench by Ted Hearne was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music. Last year, the chamber choir and Nally were the American Composers Forum’s Champion of New Music. The Crossing and Nally have been named in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Top Classical Events of the Season numerous times.

Nally earned a master’s in choral conducting from Westminster Choir College. He is responsible for imagining, programming, commissioning and conducting with The Crossing. His collaborations span the globe, from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Lisson Gallery in London to the National Museum of Japan in Osaka and The Big Sky Conservatory in Montana, where The Crossing holds an annual residency.

The Grammy Award recognized the ensemble’s recording of Gavin Bryars’ The Fifth Century, one of its 14 commercially released recordings. Overall, The Crossing has presented more than 70 commissioned works. For almost 15 years it has focused on making and recording new and substantial works for choir, with many addressing social issues.

The Fifth Century was premiered by The Crossing in 2014 alongside the saxophone quartet PRISM. The seven-part work is a setting of the words of 17th-century metaphysical poet Thomas Traherne. The recording also features Two Love Songs, a cappella settings of Petrarch.

“We had over 1,000 new visitors to our site on Grammy Award day alone,” says Nally, who is the director of choral organizations at Northwestern University where he holds the John W. Beattie Chair of Music. “So, in addition to being a lot of fun, it does serve a real purpose. If it inspires more people to go down the Gavin Bryars or The Crossing ‘rabbit hole of listening’ on the internet, and really get to know our work, then we’re really grateful for the nod.”

Nally’s 2018-19 season with The Crossing, includes Aniara: fragments of time and space, a choral-theater work over three years in the making in collaboration with Finland’s Klockriketeatern and composer Robert Maggio, as well as performances with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and concerts in Philadelphia and other cities in the U.S.

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