The Helen Kemp Award
for Lifetime Commitment to Excellence in Choral Music
The Helen Kemp Award, initiated in 2010 and named in honor of its first awardee, honors an individual who, through teaching, performing, and sharing, exhibits a lifelong passion and commitment to the choral art.
2018 Awardee: Joseph Flummerfelt
Musical America’s 2004 Conductor of the Year, Joseph Flummerfelt’s artistry has been heard in many of the world’s concert halls for over 40 years. He is founder and musical director of the New York Choral Artists, and for 33 years was conductor of the world-renown Westminster Choir. In 2016 he retired from 44 years of choral preparation for the New York Philharmonic.
As an orchestral conductor, Flummerfelt made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, conducting Haydn’s Creation in 1988. In 2001, he conducted the world premiere of Stephen Paulus’ Voices of Light with the Philharmonic and the Westminster Choir. He has also appeared as guest conductor with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra, and the San Antonio and Phoenix symphonies. He has also conducted over 60 choral/orchestral performances with the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in the United States and Italy.
For over four decades Flummerfelt has collaborated in the preparation of hundreds of choral/orchestral performances and recordings with such conductors as Abbado, Bernstein, Barenboim, Boulez, Chailly, Colin Davis, Gilbert, Giulini, Maazel, Masur, Mehta, Muti, Ozawa, Sawallisch, Shaw, Steinberg. In addition to the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Flummerfelt’s choirs have performed with numerous other American orchestras, as well as European orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Among the many recordings he has made with the Westminster Choir, his Delos recording of Brahms’ choral works (Singing for Pleasure) was chosen by The New York Times as a favorite among all existing Brahms recordings. His 2004 recording with the choir, Heaven to Earth, has received high critical acclaim. His latest CD, Legacy, was a recording of his final home concert with the Westminster Choir in April 2004.
For 33 years Joseph Flummerfelt served as artistic director and principal conductor of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey – a position from which he retired in 2004. He began his academic career as director of choral activities at his alma mater, DePauw University, from 1964 to 1968. He served in the same capacity at Florida State University from 1968 to 1971, when he began his tenure at Westminster. Since retiring from Westminster, Flummerfelt has held many visiting professorships and conducted many performances at a number of universities, including, among others, Eastman School of Music, University of Texas, New England Conservatory, University of Illinois, Kansas City Conservatory of Music and DePauw University. For 37 years he served as director of choral activities for the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston, South Carolina, from which he retired in 2013, and for 23 years was the maestro del coro for the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.
A master teacher, Flummerfelt’s many former students occupy a number of major choral positions throughout the United States. Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who, as a teenager, studied with Flummerfelt in an advanced conducting summer workshop, cites him as one of the two major influences in his life as a conductor. A 2009 New York Times article said, “Mr. Nezet-Seguin called those sessions with Mr. Flummerfelt the only significant conducting lessons he ever had.”
Dr. Donald Nally, another former student, who is now Director of Choral Activities at Northwestern University, and the founder and artistic director of The Crossings, collaborated on a book with Dr. Flummerfelt entitled Conversations with Joseph Flummerfelt.
In addition to his Grammy awards and nominations, Flummerfelt’s many honors include Le Prix du President de la Republique from L’Academie du Disque Francais. He holds honorary doctorates from Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Purdue University, Vincennes University, Ursinus College, and DePauw University. He has received DePauw’s two highest alumni awards. The Old Gold Goblet in 1988 and the DePauw Gold Medal in 2005.