About the Chorale
A Chicago musical landmark since 1971, the William Ferris Chorale is known for its “warm yet full-bodied choral tone and articulate, unaffected expressive gestures” (ClassicsToday.com) and its “knack for unearthing interesting, seldom-heard music” (Chicago Tribune).
William Ferris (1937–2000) was a lifelong champion of contemporary composers. He and the William Ferris Chorale, which he founded with tenor John Vorrasi, have been acclaimed for their concerts of music by Dominick Argento, Samuel Barber, John Corigliano, William Mathias, John McCabe, Gian Carlo Menotti, Steven Paulus, Vincent Persichetti, Ned Rorem, William Schuman, Leo Sowerby, William Walton, and many others, often with the composers as honored guests. Under his direction, the Chorale has performed at the Aldeburgh Festival and the Spoleto Festival: USA and given more than 160 world, American, and Chicago premières of important new literature.
A renowned composer in his own right, Mr. Ferris’s music was commissioned and premièred by the Chicago and the Boston Symphony Orchestras. Among his compositions are two operas, numerous concerti, symphonic and chamber works, hundreds of choral works, and dozens of songs. Northwestern University houses his complete musical archive.
A man of devout faith, he worked for the Church from his early youth, holding positions as organist/ music director and composer-in-residence at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester, New York, and, most notably, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Chicago. It was his profound belief that music for the liturgy should be of the highest quality, and his work is a shining example of that principle.
Mr. Ferris’s sudden death, while conducting a rehearsal of the Verdi Requiem, shocked the music community. His was a unique and distinctive voice on the American music scene.
Composer and conductor Paul French has distinguished himself on the Chicago choral scene. For nearly two decades he has worked in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago, and in 2001 he was named music director at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
Paul studied composition, conducting, chant, and organ at St. John’s University, Northwestern University, the Pontificio Istituto di Musica Sacra in Rome, and privately with William Ferris. A composer of more than 200 instrumental and choral works, he is a faculty member of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians Choir Director Institutes. He is also the director of choral recordings for World Library Publications, for whom he is also the editor of a series of choral works for children’s choirs, under the distinguished banner of the American Federation Pueri Cantores.
In May 2005 Paul was appointed music director of the William Ferris Chorale. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed: “The ensemble has regained its well-remembered form since Paul French became music director. He has infused it with new vitality, new vision, new purpose.” He has received critical acclaim for his performances with the Chorale in concert as well as for his recordings with them on the Cedille label.
Mr. French’s Concertato on Grosser Gott was performed as Pope Benedict XVI processed to Mass in Washington, DC, during his historic 2008 visit. Mr. French’s published music is available through World Library Publications, GIA Publications, Paraclete Press & Oregon Catholic Press.
John Vorrasi is known for his performances on the concert stage and for his work as a librettist (for William Ferris), translator (for William Mathias), essayist (for numerous recordings and journals), and program annotator (for the Chicago Symphony Chamber Music Series).
In partnership with composer William Ferris, he helped create the William Ferris Chorale, designing its public image, organizing its business affairs, and most importantly, lending his artistry as the Chorale’s tenor soloist. He now serves as the ensemble’s Artistic Director.