Greenwich Village, NY
January 31, 1974
by Jack Diether
Last Sunday at St. Luke’s Chapel on Hudson St., Gwen Gould conducted St. Luke’s Community Chorus and Orchestra in an unusually fine program. The principal work was Benjamin Britten’s energetic and exacting cantata “St. Nicolas.”
The cantata made a magnificent sound in the smallish chapel, with 36 singers, five string players, organist, two pianists, two percussionists, and a bit of audience participation in the two punctuating hymns.
The chorus and orchestra were first rate. The occasional boy sopranos and boy altos did not have the penetrating quality of English choir boys, and the mixed chorus was a bit light in the tenor department. But the tenor soloist, Lawrence Bennett as Nicolas himself, rang out with conviction, while Miss Gould kept everything in good order.
Before the cantata, a canon by Pachelbel was played by strings and harpsichord, and motets by Victoria and Sweelinck were sung. The presence of “Hodie Christus natus est” as well, as “St. Nicolas” suggested that the difficult concert might have been in preparation since before Christmas! If so, patience paid high dividends.
(note: the West Village Chorale started out as St. Luke’s Community Chorus in 1971 and was renamed the West Village Chorale in 1975)
The Daily News
She Molds Village Voices into Music
May 1, 1988
by Maria Fugate
When 45 City Professionals gather to lift their voices and sing this evening at St. Luke in the Fields Church, it will be music director Gwen Gould’s expressive hands that mold them into the vocal orchestra known as the West Village Chorale.
Leading her group through the intricate harmonies of Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52, at a recent rehearsal, Gould’s small figure seemed at times on the verge of dancing. Accompanied by two pianists, the group performed the 18 German love songs as if they’d sung the language all their lives.
“I tell them to schpit it out,” the maestro quips during a break.
A salt-and-pepper-haired woman with a gentle smile, Gould founded the West Village chorale 17 years ago aas part of the 150th anniversary of St. Luke’s, 487 Hudson St.. The group, which includes teachers, computer programmers and graphic artists, is now independent of, but resident at, the church.
Gould Believes nonprofessional singers make the best chorus.
“People who sing in groups like mine really work on blending with one another and working together as a team,” she explains.
Tonight’s concert, one of two major shows the group performs each year, will also feature “Sea Songs” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the world premiere of Eugene McBride’s “Kaire,” a tone poem in three parts.
The group, which survives on membership dues and donations, also performs an annual Messiah Sing, a Christmas caroling walk through village streets, and sponsors a series of summer sings, in which the audience becomes the chorus for major works.
“You never know who’s going to walk through the door,” says Gould. “I always wonder: Will we have enough tenors and sopranos? But we never had group who couldn’t do it.”
Gould began studying music more than 30 years ago in her hometown of Millbrook in upstate New York. At 7, she practiced the piano diligently – partly to get out of doing the dishes, she recalls.
At 13, she began working as an organist at local churches. She took her master’s in sacred music from Union Theological Seminary, with a major in organ.
In 1966, Gould moved to the city, where she worked as an organist, choirmaster, music teacher, and part-time realtor.
After starting the chorus, she met her husband, Ed Grossman, a computer programmer, at auditions for a summer sing. He joined the chorus in 1972, and married Gould in 1975. “Every conductor should be lucky enough to have a tenor in the house,” jokes Gould.
The couple make their home in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn with their 9-year old son, Nicholas. Grossman’s three daughters by a previous marriage are away at college. Gould also runs an independent broker business from home.
But her first love is-surprise-music. Is conducting as much fun as it looks? “Yes,” Gould answers quickly. “But everybody else is doing the hard work. I just put it together.”
(Maria Fugate is a Daily News copy editor)
The Newsletter for Professional & Amateur Choral Singers
by R. Schartoff
The WEST VILLAGE CHORALE
& The COLUMBIA FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA
Gwen Gould, cond.
Handel: Judas Maccabaeus (1746)
Rutter: Magnificat (1990)
The 44-member WVC under the baton of its founder Gwen Gould, gave a secure and very entertaining performance of Handel’s “Judas Maccabaeus” (omitting all recitatives and most solo arias) and John Rutter’s “Magnificat,” with the skilled backing of soprano Elizabeth Hendrekson-Farnum and what Gould calls her passion: the Columbia Festival Orchestra. Together they presented a “joyous celebration” of two works, that although written 250 years apart, seemed ideally juxtaposed for this concert. The chorus made its entrance into the quiet simplicity of St. Luke in the Fields Episcopal Church (located in the still charming section of Greenwich Village) wearing their Sunday best, each suit or blouse adorned with a red AIDS ribbon, as the enthusiastic audience eagerly awaited the opening chords. It was immediately obvious that most of the soloists (all members of the WVC save Hendreckson-Farnum) lacked professional polish. But then it became clear – this was the way Handel and Rutter had intended their music to be appreciated. Hadn’t Handel abandoned performances limited to aristocratic patrons and opened the theatre doors to the middle class, while Rutter had written his MAGNIFICAT to celebrate “the people”? From that visionary moment, the combination of the thrill one can experience from ensemble singing, the glorification of the common man and the venue coalesced into a transcendent statement. And when the singing ended, the applause dying down, everyone exited St. Luke’s having had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.