Podcast: Composers Reflect on Their Work

June 10, 2020

Conductor David Hill talks with composers Roderick Williams and Reena Esmail about their commissioned works for Yale Schola Cantorum, released on the Hyperion label. We will hear two complete movements from that recording whose themes of equity, unity, and peace speak to the urgent issues of our time.

Download the CD booklet for composer notes as well as texts and translations. Selections from New England Choirworks on the Hyperion label are used with permission. | Yale Schola Cantorum/Hyperion

Roderick Williams is a British baritone who performs a wide repertoire vrom Baroque to contemporary music, in the hoper house, on the concert platform, and in recital. He won the Singer of the Year Award in the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards and was awarded the OBE for services to music in June 2017. As a composer, he has had works premiered at the Wigmore and Barbican Halls, the Purcell Room and live on national (UK) radio. He was artistic director of Leeds Lieder in 2016. | Roderick Williams (BBC)

Indian-American composer Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music, bringing communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. She was named a 2019 United States Artist Fellow in Music, and was the 2019 grand prize winner of the S&R Foundation’s Washington Award. She was previously a 2017–2018 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. In addition to her work as a composer, Esmail is the co-artistic director of Shastra, a non-profit organization promoting cross-cultural music that connects the great musical traditions of India and the West. | Reena Esmail’s website

David Hill has a long and distinguished career as one of Europe’s leading conductors. He has held appointments as chief conductor of the BBC Singers, musical director of The Bach Choir, chief conductor of Southern Sinfonia, music director of Leeds Philharmonic Society, and associate guest conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He has been awardee an honorary doctorate by the University of Southampton, and Honorary Fellowship of the Royal School of Church Music, and an honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Music. He has a long list of conducting credits and an extensive discography. On the Yale faculty since 2013, he serves as principal conductor of Yale Schola Cantorum, and participates in the training of student choral conductors. | David Hill’s website

Yale Schola Cantorum is a chamber choir that performs sacred music from the sixteenth century to the present day in concert settings and choral services around the world. It is sponsored by Yale Institute of Sacred Music and conducted by David Hill; Masaaki Suzuki is principal guest conductor. Open by audition to students from all departments and professional schools across Yale University, the choir has a special interest in historically informed performance practice, often in collaboration with instrumentalists from Juilliard415.

Schola was founded in 2003 by Simon Carrington. In recent years, the choir has also sung under the direction of internationally renowned conductors Matthew Halls, Simon Halsey, Paul Hillier, Stephen Layton, Sir Neville Marriner, Nicholas McGegan, James O’Donnell, Stefan Parkman, Krzysztof Penderecki, Helmuth Rilling, and Dale Warland. In addition to performing regularly in New Haven and New York, the ensemble records and tours nationally and internationally. Schola’s 2018 recording on the Hyperion label featuring Palestrina’s Missa Confitebor tibi Domine has garnered enthusiastic reviews. A live recording of Heinrich Biber’s 1693 Vesperae longiores ac breviores with Robert Mealy and Yale Collegium Musicum received international acclaim from the early music press, as have subsequent CDs of J. S. Bach’s rarely heard 1725 version of the St. John Passion and Antonio Bertali’s Missa resurrectionis. A recording on the Naxos label of Mendelssohn and Bach Magnificats was released in 2009, and recent years have seen the release of two CDs by Delos Records. Most recently, Hyperion released Schola Cantorum performing a chamber version of the Brahms Requiem; recordings of the music of Roderick Williams and Reena Esmail are forthcoming. On tour, Schola Cantorum has given performances in England, Hungary, France, China, South Korea, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Japan, Singapore, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, India, Spain, and Scandinavia. 


All music from New England Choirworks on the Hyperion label. Used with permission. | Yale Schola Cantorum/Hyperion

Roderick Williams: “O brother man” from New England Symphony, premiered by Yale Schola Cantorum conducted by David Hill in 2015.

Reena Esmail: “Hinduism” from This Love between Us: Prayers for Unity, premiered by Yale Schola Cantorum conducted by David Hill in 2016. Performed with Juilliard415 with vocal soloists James Reese and Addy Sterrett and Rabindra Goswami, sitar, and Ramchandra Pandit, tabla.