Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Many Sounds of Daniel Brondel

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Calvin Coolidge

Versatile musician Daniel Brondel is the Associate Director of Music at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where he plays Masses each week that are broadcast live on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
He is also the Associate Director of the Cathedral Choir, and he manages the organ recital series and the visiting choirs concert series. He performs solo recitals in the United States and France, and has also appeared as soloist in piano concertos of Mozart and Rachmaninoff, and organ concertos of Poulenc and Jongen.
 Mr. Brondel is the Artistic Director of The Salvatones, a new vibrant professional choral ensemble based in New York City. He made his Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall) debut in 2010 as narrator in a performance of Erik Satie's Sports et divertissements. Daniel has also recorded and appeared regularly as countertenor soloist (Schnittke’s Requiem and Bach’s B-minor Mass) with Grammy-Award-winner Paul Halley, and has sung with the Gentlemen of the Choir of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue.
He has performed extensively in oratorios of Bach and Handel, and in opera, notably the lead role of Oberon in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Praised for a colorful timbre and an exceptionally wide vocal range, he is featured as solo sopranist in Aural Borealis, a CD recording by award-winning Publick Musick. His first solo-organ album, The Glory of the Organ, recorded at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in 2010 on the JAV label, is available in the Cathedral’s Gift Shop, from JAV Recordings and on iTunes.

As if that isn't enough, he is the artistic director of The Many Sounds of Christmas, a NEW New York  Holiday Tradition, which premiers in New York next weekend. I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes from Daniel's busy schedule earlier this week and discuss the path that has brought him to this point and what lies ahead. Today, I celebrate Daniel Brondel's body of "worth".
 Daniel grew up loving music hoping that someday he would be able to make a career out of being a musician. His family, however, was trying to encourage him towards a more "realistic", perhaps less creative profession. They, of course, were concerned with the difficulty of the life of a musician or anyone in a creative profession. It wasn't THEIR plan that Daniel would become a professional musician. The profession, however, found HIM. It actually became the "path of least resistance". That's where he had the most potential. He also had a strong predilection towards it.
Once he moved to America and high school and encountered people who discovered that he was a pretty decent musician. They encouraged him to follow his passion and not to worry about money. He was told that it would come once he was fully following his path and passion. Daniel was definitely afraid that their encouragement was more cliche than real. Rather than it turning out that being a musician was not always the right thing to do,  it WAS the right thing to do.
He did have a PLAN B, but he hasn't needed it yet.
Daniel started getting music jobs when he was in college in Atlanta, Georgia. That was around 1991. He started out making "very little money", but money, nonetheless. After college, he went on to graduate school for music. On a parallel track to school, he continued with school AND work. He started making a
professional living around 2001.  
What does Daniel do when he needs a little "nonsense" in his life? He gets "nonsense" in his every day life.
Musicians work in a very interesting field. They work with a lot of creative people and there is a certain amount of nonsense built into that. He does like to hang out with friends who are not necessarily in the profession. He has wonderful friends who appreciate music, but the basis of the friendship is not music. That is a really great outlet.
What does Daniel want more than anything else?
What makes him get up in the morning is the desire to improve people's lives through music. Besides fame and money, Daniel would like a sense of accomplishment that his mission is getting accomplished and that what he does actually has a good impact.
When Daniel is working on a project, he is always focused on the finished product. He keeps asking himself what is going to be the audience's experience?
What is it going to be as they are actually listening to the music. Is it going to be a serious experience? Is it going to be an entertaining experience? Is it going to be a fun experience? Those things are important to Daniel. He would like to include a variety of experiences, and he does desire to make people feel better after they hear his music than before they heard it.
His subtext is wondering if his own personal mission as a musician is being fulfilled to improve people's lives through music.
The Many Sounds of Christmas 
A NEW New York City holiday tradition! This year’s addition will feature The Salvatones (vocal ensemble), New York Virtuosi (String Ensemble), Stephen Fraser (Organist), all under the direction of Daniel Brondel.
Daniel's hope for all that attend is that they will all experience a strong sense of the Christmas spirit and the Christmas feeling. A feeling of joy and happiness and hope for the new year. 
He hopes that it will evoke warm feelings of childhood and youth and that they believe in the Christmas miracle of the holiday. The Many Sounds of Christmas is specifically designed to hopefully achieve that. It will have famous Christmas carols. 
It will have choral arrangements of Christmas songs that people will recognize. It will have some of the best known excerpts from Handel's Messiah. It will also have music by a string orchestra that will evoke cozy memories of the holidays sitting by a cozy fire. People will be able to listen. They will be able to sing along. 
Most of all, they will fill the joy of the performers. That music is always fun to perform. The audience should get a sense that they are part of something fun and entertaining and joyful.
The Salvatones have plans to continue with non holiday music after these concerts. They have standards in their repertoire. They are also performing some pop songs that are arranged for a Capella vocal ensembles and other pieces that other people have arranged. They also have arrangements by an excellent local New York choral and vocal arranger, Roger Wesby, who is based at Wagner College on Staten Island.
His arrangements seem to be an excellent fit for The Salvatones. Lots of different types of harmonies on tunes you wouldn't expect from a vocal ensemble, especially convincingly. After the holidays, the Salvatones are also going to be working on a holiday album. They definitely desire to record some of the music they are learning now for the CD.
Every group seems to have a holiday album and they will be tackling that as well.  They are also hoping to make some videos of their performance of Fields of Gold. They are hoping to film in the country to present something different. They are also seeking out new venues to perform in throughout the city and around the country just so they can get better at what they do.
Everyone who hears them is excited about having heard them. Here in New York, there are so many other performers. To somehow break out and make a name for yourself is the goal. They are utilizing social media and trying to get those bookings.
They are definitely a young group. A young group as far as making inroads is concerned.
Daniel is absolutely sure that he is doing exactly what he SHOULD be doing at this point in his life.
He trusts that life, the Universe, or God, has looked out for him. He has been able to love every opportunity
that has come his way.
He has also worked very hard for these opportunities. Not just to get them, but everything he has done, and keeps doing, feels right to him. He is fulfilling his destiny, "whatever that is." He is the head of The Salvatones. They were born out of what was supposed to be a one time thing. They were having  so much fun in the process of getting ready for that, that in the process, they decided that they should keep going to see where it goes. The Salvatones has taken on a life of its own and it has been a very pleasant surprise and an enjoyable experience. It continues to be and is thrilling. How can one question if that is meant to be? It is the perfect thing to be doing. There is so much to do and they keep getting better and better and people enjoy hearing them.
If Daniel could change one thing about the business, it would be the perception that the arts aren't essential in our society. He would like to change the perception that culture is not important. To a lot of people, culture IS important, but it doesn't
necessarily get them riled up to make sure that their local school boards are making sure that culture and arts and music is in their schools, that their communities have cultural or musical programs. Most artists are also not properly compensated for putting together a concert or exhibit or show. The perception is that they just show up and do it and getting paid for that is superfluous. The perception need to change that music is JUST entertainment.
Daniel's own family did not think of music as a viable profession. Daniel's own family in Europe did not respect his career choice until he was already the associate director of music at St. Patrick's Cathedral for about a year.
He is not directing his family's opinion on anyone else. There is, however, this wide perception in society that music is not really viable or a "serious" career. The same is true of other areas of our arts and culture. The mission of The Salvatones is to prove that music is vital to humanity. There are so many studies that show the importance of arts and especially when music is applied in our lives or learning a musical instrument. It is still strange to
Daniel that society ignores that. He hopes to see more use of arts and music in school curriculums and in our society, overall.
Daniel cannot imagine The Many Sounds of Christmas not being a part of his life now. Even if it is not embraced by lower Manhattan (although advance ticket sales has been great!), they will find another area. Daniel believes that it is a great concert as a program. It is not just choral singing. It is not just a string ensemble as well as an organist.
It is all of these things combined expertly together. It's the variety that makes for an entertaining and enjoying concert for people.
For those that are involved, it has been great collaborating with each other. This is a project that they hope to keep growing and developing beyond next week's concerts. They have a killer concept that WILL become a tradition here in New York. That is their goal and hope. The concept of doing a holiday concert downtown came to fruition in the late spring and the early summer. Around that time, Daniel was having dinner with the pastor of St. Peter's downtown. They have known each other for many years. He used to be the Master of Ceremonies at St. Patrick's Cathedral where Daniel has been working for six and a half years. They have a good relationship. The pastor was telling Daniel about this new Four Seasons hotel which is being built nearby. There is a lot of activity there and it is close to the old World Trade Center site. There will be a lot of people in that region especially around the holidays.
Daniel thought that it would be wonderful to have a holiday concert at his church. Daniel was thinking that The Salvatones could perform. It took him by surprise at how fast it grew. Once Daniel spoke to Salvatore Diana about this, it became an idea that started making sense. There is nothing going on except the annual Messiah at Trinity Church on Wall Street. There is no other major Christmas or holiday event. The hope is that they are now creating something. 
They collaborated with Peter Kiral, who is the head of The New York Virtuosi. It brought it all together. Discussions started in June. By July, they were already developing a concept of what music to use.
In closing, The Many Sounds of Christmas is the realization of the Christmas feeling.Joyful, Happy, Hopeful feeling, Enchanting, great holiday music. Let;s all go back to those happy Christmas feelings as kids. I hope that all that read this who will be in New York on December 21st and 22nd will help be kickstart Christmas week!

Click HERE to go to The Many Sounds of Christmas Website.

Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!                

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Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Norman Vincent Peale

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