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Cleveland Orchestra Director of Choruses will step down at conclusion of 2017-18 season

Robert Porco longest-serving Director of Choruses and Director ever

Published: May 23, 2017 11:47 AM
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CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Orchestra has announced that renowned choral director Robert Porco will step down from his position as the Orchestra’s Director of Choruses with the conclusion of the 2017-18 season.  At that time, he will be the longest-serving Director of Choruses and Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus in the ensemble’s history, he began his tenure with the 1998-99 season.

“Bob Porco has been a great musical partner of The Cleveland Orchestra,” says Franz Welser-Möst, the Orchestra’s Music Director since 2002.  “At home in Cleveland, and on tour, he has been a driving force in bringing our choral works to life.  He has taken on challenging repertoire from Mozart to Mahler, from Beethoven to Stravinsky, and for our annual opera productions across multiple languages and styles – and all with a group of dedicated volunteers.  He has inspired thousands of singers to perform at their best.”

“The entire Cleveland Orchestra community stands grateful for Bob Porco’s tireless commitment to The Cleveland Orchestra’s tradition of excellence, onstage and off,” said André Gremillet, the Orchestra’s Executive Director. “Bob’s leadership has been exemplary and inspirational, as have his absolute dedication and advocacy for each piece of music he and the Chorus worked on during their long and successful partnership.

Robert Porco was appointed to the position of Director of Choruses in 1998 by Christoph von Dohnányi, The Cleveland Orchestra’s music director from 1984 to 2002. Over the course of his time with the Orchestra, Porco has continued to refine and shape the choral sound of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and its other choruses, preparing them for numerous performances for each Severance Hall season, the summertime Blossom Music Festival, and on tour with The Cleveland Orchestra nationally and internationally.  His predecessors in the role of Director of Choruses include Robert Shaw (1956-67), whose work first elevated the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus to international fame through recordings and in performance. 

In addition to preparing choral forces for performance under many guest conductors and for Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, Porco has personally led the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus in concert with The Cleveland Orchestra ─ in performances at both Severance Hall and at Blossom, including Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, and Orff’s Carmina Burana, in addition to evenings of Broadway or American favorites at the Blossom Music Festival.  For many seasons, he also led The Cleveland Orchestra’s popular Christmas Concerts each December, acting as both emcee and conductor for these beloved holiday programs.

An Ohio native, Porco also serves as the Director of Choruses for the Cincinnati May Festival, a position he has held for the past twenty-seven years, and extending through the Festival’s 2018 season. In 2011, Mr. Porco was honored by Chorus America with its annual Michael Korn Founders Award for a lifetime of significant contributions to the professional choral art.

Highlights of Mr. Porco’s Cleveland tenure have included preparing the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus for a wide variety of performances and repertoire, including performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 conducted by Franz Welser-Möst in January 2007, released as a Deutsche Grammophon recording.  He has prepared the Chorus for touring appearances with the Orchestra, including performances at the Edinburgh International Festival, Lucerne Festival, London Proms, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, as well as performances in Paris, Frankfurt, and Luxembourg.  In twenty seasons as Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, he will have been involved in preparing the Chorus for over 150 different concert programs, presented on more than 600 performance dates

Porco’s activities and achievements across four decades of work have included preparing choruses for such prominent conductors as Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Andrew Davis, Christoph von Dohnányi, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, André Previn, Kurt Sanderling, Robert Shaw, and Leonard Slatkin, among others.  As a guest conductor, Mr. Porco has led performances across North America, in Europe, and in Asia, with appearances from Edinburgh to Lucerne, Reykjavik to Taipei, and from Chicago’s Grant Park Festival to the Cincinnati May Festival.

Robert Porco served as chairman of the choral department at Indiana University, 1980-98, and in recent years taught doctoral-level conducting at the school.  Highlights of his work at Indiana University included a special performance by 250 students of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass as part of the Tanglewood Music Festival’s celebration of the composer’s 70th birthday.  He was artistic director and conductor of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, 1989-98.

As teacher and mentor, Mr. Porco has guided and influenced the development of hundreds of musicians, many of whom are now active as professional conductors, singers, or teachers. As a sought-after guest instructor and coach, his teaching work has included programs at Harvard University, Westminster Choir College, and the University of Miami Frost School of Music.

Orchestra officials stated that the process of selecting Porco’s replacement as Director of Choruses is underway and will proceed in the coming months. 


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