When Rodney Wynkoop was invited to conduct a choral piece for a Memorial Day concert at Carnegie Hall, he believed he would find no better singers than the ones he could bring with him.
"Usually when one is invited to conduct on this particular series, they advertise nationally for singers," Wynkoop said. "They asked me if that's what I wanted, but I preferred to bring my own group. This was a wonderful opportunity to show people in New York the great choral music we have in the Triangle, as well as a chance for these Duke students to perform in one of the world's finest concert halls."
Wynkoop, professor of the practice of music at Duke, is also director of chapel music, director of the Duke Chorale and Chapel Choir, and conductor and artistic director of the Choral Society of Durham.
In the Memorial Day concert, he led 150 members of these groups, accompanied by the New England Symphonic Ensemble, in Ralph Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem on May 28.
The program also included other choruses from around the United States performing Mozart's Mass in c minor. Wynkoop's singers returned to the stage for Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, the last piece of the evening.
"I chose Vaughan Williams's Dona nobis pacem because I find it especially appropriate for Memorial Day weekend," Wynkoop said. "It is a powerful work that honors those who have died in war and makes an impassioned cry for peace. I think it will make a major impact on anyone who hears it."
Although this was Wynkoop's first conducting engagement at Carnegie Hall, it is not the first time he has appeared on stage there. "I sang in Carnegie Hall when I was a college student," he said. "We performed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony under Leopold Stokowski. It was an unforgettable experience for me, and I'm glad our singers got the same opportunity."
The Duke Chorale is a group of 50 undergraduate and graduate students who perform a diverse repertoire from the 16th century to the present day. They perform several concerts each semester at Duke, including the annual Christmas concert that typically collects over 2,000 pounds of food for the Durham Community Kitchen.
The Duke Chapel Choir consists of 150 singers, including students and community members. It performs every Sunday in Duke Chapel. The Choral Society of Durham is recognized as one of the Southeast's finest symphonic choruses. The group has performed with the North Carolina Symphony and at the Southern Division convention of the American Choral Directors Association.