In Memoriam: Garyth Nair
December 23, 1943-August 10, 2013
Summit Chorale mourns the death of its long-time Music Director Garyth Nair, who died on Saturday, August 10, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage several days before.
Born in Latrobe, PA, Garyth Nair began his musical studies at Westminster Choir College, Princeton. There he was appointed Assistant Conductor of the famed Westminster Choir, the first student in the College's history to be so honored. He later studied at Tanglewood with the late Sir Adrian Boult and completed an M.S. in Musicology at New York University.
For 34 years, one half of his life's span, Maestro Nair served as Music Director of Summit Chorale; he also directed the Chorus of M.U.S.I.C., prior to its merger with Summit Chorale. Among the many highlights of Mr. Nair's work with the Chorale are performances of these major choral works: F.J. Haydn, The Creation (75th Anniversary Concert); G.F. Handel, Israel in Egypt; L. van Beethoven, Missa Solemnis; G. Verdi, Requiem; J.S. Bach, St. John Passion; F. Mendelssohn, Die Erste Walpurgisnacht; Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem; W.A. Mozart, Requiem; M. Duruflé, Requiem; C. Orff, Carmina Burana; and an abridged version of F. Mendelssohn's Elijah with Jerome Hines as narrator.
He lavished an equal measure of attention on the myriad of shorter works he conducted during his tenure. Most of the singers who sang under Maestro Nair will agree with Michael Redmont, music critic of The Star Ledger (when New Jersey newspapers still printed classical music reviews), who called Garyth Nair "one of the most brilliant and dynamic conductors on the scene".
One of the features that made singing for Maestro Nair interesting and challenging was the fact that he had the Chorale sing in many tongues, including French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, (Italienate) Latin, Russian, Spanish, Church-Slovonic, Old English, Middle-High German and, of course, his beloved Welsh (for which he invited a Welsh diction coach). His insistence on a wide range of vowel and consonant sounds required hard work and resulted in deep satisfaction when it was achieved.
Mr. Nair prepared Summit Chorale for guest appearances in concert performances of operas, with the Dessoff Choirs (L. van Beethoven, Fidelio) and with Westfield Symphony (G. Verdi, Aida; P. Mascagni, Cavalleria Rusticana). Other guest appearances included: North Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Bernstein, Chichester Psalms; performances with the Heritage Strings in benefit concerts for the Fund for Peace and Justice in Ireland before capacity audiences at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center (1984) and at St. Patrick's Cathedral (1984, 1985); a series of performances with the Waterloo Festival Orchestra under Gerard Schwarz in 1983-1985, 1987, and 1988 (Summit Chorale and M.U.S.I.C., Ives, Fourth Symphony; Verdi, Requiem; Ravel, Daphnis et Chloe; Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius; Brahms, Schicksalslied; Bloch, America; Hanson, The Lament for Beowulf); Colonial Symphony, Verdi, Requiem; Opera at Florham, Orff, Carmina Burana.
The music chosen for the Chorale by Maestro Nair ranged from the twelfth to the 21st century. On several occasions, the Chorale commissioned works from New Jersey composers, including Wayne Dietterick (In excelsis gloria), John Kaefer (Come, lovely and soothing death), Carl Della Perruti, (O magnum mysterium), Jon Quinn (The holly and the ivy; O beautiful America), Paul Somers (Noe! Pastores, laudate dominum), David Sampson (The snow lies thick), David Stanley York (Alleluiah; America). On several occasions Garyth Nair contributed his own compositions (Stille Nacht, Nachon libi elohim) or arrangements (O come, all ye faithful).
The rich variety of musical styles and Maestro Nair's insightful comments on these works, his lucid explanations of the musical background, and his insistence on high musical standards, if not perfection, won him many admirers and faithful followers, who continued to sing for him for decades.
A person of this caliber will not be forgotten soon--Summit Chorale will miss Garyth Nair, as will many others who had the privilege to know him and work with him.
Heinz D. Roth,
Singer, Summit Chorale, 1978-Present
President, 1985-1988, 1992-1995