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Chichester Psalms: Leonard Bernstein's "Psalms of Youth," 50 Years and counting....

Posted April 9, 2015

Even 50 years after its July 15, 1965 world premiere at New York's Philharmonic Hall, conducted by the composer himself, Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms timelessly endures as one of his most popular and often performed works.

What started out as "Psalms of Youth" became what we know today as Chichester Psalms. Bernstein renamed the work early on, reasoning that the old working title, "Psalms of Youth," would misrepresent the Psalms as easy to perform!

Of his artistic process, Bernstein wrote:

"For hours on end I brooded and mused
On materiae musicae, used and abused....

And then I came up with the Chichester Psalms.

These psalms are a simple and modest affair,

Tonal and tuneful and somewhat square....
But there it stands the result of my pondering,
Two long months of avant-garde wandering --
My youngest child, old-fashioned and sweet.
And he stands on his own two tonal feet."

(Leonard Bernstein, The New York Times, October 24, 1965)


Now, 50 years later, the work remains as popular as ever.  In 2015, Chichester Psalms will make its way around the world at the following performances:

April, 2015:

Maestro Lothar R. Mayer conducts the Philharmonie Südwestfalen in Chichester Psalms alongside selected movements from Bernstein's Mass; the concert will feature other devotional works, including music from Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy  and the world-premiere of Andreas Seemer-Koeper's Psalter Motions:

4/25/2015, Kurhaus, Hamm, Germany

4/26/2015, Leonhard-Gläser-Saal, Siegen, Germany

Maestro Lahav Shani conducts the NDR Radiophilharmonie, Collegium Vocale Hannover, and Capella St. Crucis in Chichester Psalms, alongside choral works by other Jewish composers, in a concert commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen; NDR Kultur will broadcast a recording of the concert at a later date:

4/25/2015, NDR Großer Sendesaal, Hannover, Germany


May, 2015:

Maestra Carolyn Kuan conducts the Hartford Chorale, Beth El Temple Chorus, Congregation Beth Israel Chorus, and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in the full-orchestra version of Chichester Psalms for the Hartford Chorale's final concert of their 2014-15 season:

5/7/2015-5/10/2015, Belding Theater, Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Maestro Thorsten Schlepphorst conducts the Kantorei St. Dionysius Nordwalde in Chichester Psalms as part of their "Week of Peace," commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II:

5/10/2015, St. Dionysius, Nordwalde, Germany


June, 2015:

Maestro Norbert Groh conducts the Daimler Orchester München and Ars Musica Chor Ottobrunn in Chichester Psalms alongside Carl Orff's Carmina Burana:

6/12/2015, Wolf-Ferrari-Haus, Ottobrunn, Germany

Maestro Vijay Upadhyaya conducts the Chor und Orchester der Universität Wien in a reprise of their March 2015 concert featuring Chichester Psalms and Richard Strauss's Der Abend motet and Four Last Songs:

6/13/2015-6/14/2015, Universität, Festsaal, Wien, Austria


July, 2015:

Maestro Felix Koch conducts the Chor und Orchester des Collegium Musicum Mainz in Chichester Psalms as part of their "American Dream" concert, the finale of their 2015 summer semester; also on the program are Dvoƙák's Te Deum and both Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and Cuban Overture:

7/19/2015, Rheingoldhalle, Mainz, Germany


November, 2015:

Maestro James Gaffigan conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in an all-American program featuring violinist Nicola Benedetti and the London Symphony Chorus; beginning and ending with Bernstein (Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, then Chichester Psalms, respectively), the concert will also feature the Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements (written after his emigration to the United States) and the world premiere of Wynton Marsalis's Violin Concerto:

11/6/2015, Barbican Hall, London, United Kingdom