Kent Tritle is one of America’s leading choral conductors. Called “the brightest star in New York's choral music world” by The New York Times, he is Director of Cathedral Music and Organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City; Music Director of Musica Sacra, the longest continuously performing professional chorus in New York; and Music Director of the Oratorio Society of New York, the acclaimed 200-voice volunteer chorus.
In addition, Kent is Director of Choral Activities and Chair of the Organ Department at the Manhattan School of Music and is a member of the graduate faculty of The Juilliard School. Also an acclaimed organ virtuoso, Kent is the organist of the New York Philharmonic and the American Symphony Orchestra.
In the 2015-16 season, building on a sweeping, sold-out performance in March 2015 of Verdi’s Requiem by the combined forces of the Oratorio Society of New York and the Manhattan School of Music Symphonic Chorus and Orchestra at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Kent will lead the same groups in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand,” at the Cathedral. On the other end of the intimacy scale is “Four Quarters of Jerusalem,” a concert and new recording by Kent leading the Cathedral Choir of St. John the Divine and early/world ensemble Rose of the Compass performing music associated with the Holy Land. In the middle is a program showcasing the choral intricacy of Tallis’s 40-part motet Spem in Alium and Strauss’s 20-part Deutsche Motette with Musica Sacra. Kent also leads the world premiere of Evan Fein’s Deborah with Musica Sacra, the New York premiere of Marjorie Merryman’s Jonah with the Oratorio Society of New York, and the 2002 Requiem Oratio Spei by Juraj Filas, the Prague Symphony recording that he conducted in 2013, also with the Oratorio Society.
Recent notable performances have included: at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the Oratorio Society of New York and the Symphony and Symphonic Chorus of the Manhattan School of Music, and programs of early music with the Cathedral Choir in the Chapel of St. James; with Musica Sacra, a program featuring world premieres of music by Juraj Filas, Michael Gilbertson, and Robert Paterson and an acclaimed performance of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil; and with the Oratorio Society of New York, the world premiere of Juraj Filas’s Song of Solomon, and performances of Paul Moravec’s Blizzard Voices and Songs of Love and War and Mozart’s arrangement of Handel’s Messiah.
Kent led the “Mass Appeal Mass” of the “Make Music New York” festival for three years, including the 2012 premiere of a work by Philip Glass in Times Square. He has created high-profile collaborations for his groups with other major players in the New York music scene, directing the Manhattan School of Music Symphonic Chorus for performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the New York Philharmonic led by Alan Gilbert; Musica Sacra for the New York Philharmonic’s presentation of "2001: A Space Odyssey" film screening and live score performance, also led by Gilbert; and the Oratorio Society of New York for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s led by Sir Roger Norrington. In 2013, Kent was the chorus director of the Carnegie Hall National High School Choral Festival, preparing three choruses from high schools across the country in Mozart’s Requiem.
As part of his work as Director of Choral Activities at the Manhattan School of Music, Kent recently established the school’s first doctoral program in choral conducting. He is also renowned as a master clinician, giving workshops on conducting and repertoire; in 2014 he made his third appearance as a featured conductor at the Berkshire Choral International, leading Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, and in 2015 he led summer workshops at the Amherst Early Music Festival and Summer@Eastman, and a workshop in choral conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. A Juilliard School faculty member since 1996, he currently directs a graduate practicum on oratorio in collaboration with the school’s Vocal Arts Department.
In more than 150 concerts presented by the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space series from 1989 to 2011, Kent conducted the Choir and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola in a broad repertoire of sacred works, from Renaissance masses and oratorio masterworks to premieres by notable living composers, earning praise for building the choir and the concert series into one of the highlights of the New York concert scene. From 1996 to 2004, Kent as Music Director of the Emmy-nominated Dessoff Choirs. Under his direction the Dessoff Choirs performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Czech Philharmonic, as well as a nationally telecast Live from Lincoln Center concert of Mozart’s Requiem. Kent hosted “The Choral Mix with Kent Tritle,” a weekly program devoted to the vibrant world of choral music, on New York’s WQXR from 2010 to 2014.
Kent has worked with a wealth of young singers over the years; several with whom he was worked frequently are on the leading edge of the current group of rising stars in opera and concert: sopranos Susanna Phillips, Emalie Savoy, and Jennifer Zetlan; mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke; and tenor Paul Appleby. Kent has prepared choruses for conductors Alan Gilbert, Philippe Entremont, Christoph von Dohnányi, Leonard Slatkin, Michael Tilson Thomas, Robert Spano, Gerard Schwarz, Vladimir Spivakov, Nicholas McGegan, Leon Botstein, and Dennis Russell Davies. Among the soloists with whom he has collaborated are singers Renée Fleming, Jessye Norman, Hei-Kyung Hong, Marilyn Horne, Susanne Mentzer, Susan Graham, and Sherrill Milnes; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; pianist André Previn; and actor Tony Randall.
As an organ recitalist, Kent performs regularly in Europe and across the United States; recital venues have included the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Zurich Tonhalle, the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris, Dresden’s Hofkirche, King’s College at Cambridge, Westminster Abbey, and St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. With the Philharmonic he has performed Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony conducted by Lorin Maazel and Andrew Davis, and recorded Brahms’s s Ein Deutsches Requiem, Britten’s War Requiem and Henze’s Symphony No. 9, all conducted by Kurt Masur, as well as the Grammy-nominated "Sweeney Todd" conducted by Andrew Litton. He is featured on the DVDs "The Organistas" and "Creating the Stradivarius of Organs."
Kent has made more than a dozen recordings on the Telarc, AMDG, Epiphany, Gothic, VAI and MSR Classics labels. Among his most recent are two with Musica Sacra: "Messages to Myself," an acclaimed recording of five new works (by Daniel Brewbaker, Michael Gilbertson, Zachary Patten, Behzad Ranjbaran, and Christopher Theofanidis), and "Eternal Reflections: Choral Music" of Robert Paterson, a 2015 release about which Gramophone magazine said, “As shaped by Music Director Kent Tritle, the myriad hues, lyricism and nobility in Paterson's music emerge in all their splendour. The choristers of Musica Sacra lift their lines from the page, bringing passionate and lucid life to the varied challenges.”
Kent holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from The Juilliard School in organ performance and choral conducting. He has been featured on ABC World News Tonight, National Public Radio, and Minnesota Public Radio, as well as in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Works conducted at BCI
- Elgar, Dream of Gerontius, 2014
- Monteverdi, Vespers, 2011
- Handel, Solomon, 2008