Composers Datebook®

John Rutter at Carnegie Hall

Composer's Datebook - May 26, 2023


For many years now MidAmerica Productions has been organizing concerts in New York City and enlisting choral ensembles from the U.S. and abroad to come to the “big apple” to perform at prestigious Manhattan venues.

On today’s date in 1990, choirs from Arkansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Texas were on stage at Carnegie Hall for the world premiere of John Rutter’s Magnificat, specially commissioned by MidAmerica, and with the British composer himself on hand to conduct.

“The chorus numbered over 200 voices,” Rutter recalled, “every one of them happy and excited at the prospect of joining forces in the magnificent setting of Carnegie Hall... [so] I wanted to write something joyous because that would reflect the mood of the performers...”

“The ‘Magnifcat’,“ continues Rutter, “is known as the Canticle of the Blessed Virgin, and it is mainly in the sunny southern countries – Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico – that Mary is most celebrated... This led me to conceive the music as a bright, Latin- flavored fiesta.”

Despite composing and conducting religious music, Rutter confessed during a 2003 interview that he was not particularly religious himself – just a composer deeply moved and inspired by the spirituality of sacred verses and prayers.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Rutter (b. 1945) Magnificat Elizabeth Cragg, s.; Choirs of St. Albans Cathedral; Ensemble DeChorum; Andrew Lucas, conductor. Naxos 8.572653

On This Day


  • 1893 - British composer and conductor Sir Eugene Goosens, in London;

  • 1898 - American composer, pianist and conductor Ernst Bacon, in Chicago;

  • 1938 - American composer and pianist William Bolcom, in Seattle;


  • 1924 - Irish-born American composer and cellist Victor Herbert, age 65, in New York;


  • 1914 - Stravinsky: opera, "Le Rossignol" (The Nightingale), at the Paris Opéra, with Pierre Monteux conducting;

  • 1919 - Gershwin: musical "La, La, Lucille," at the Henry Miller Theater in New York City;

  • 1923 - Edward Joseph Collins: "Tragic Overture (1914)" and "Mardi Gras" performed at Northwestern University by the Chicago Symphony under Frederick Stock as part of the finalists' concert of the North Shore Festival competition for new works for orchestra; Collins won the $1000 first prize for his "Tragic Overture (1914)";

  • 1953 - Stockhausen: "Kontra-Punkte" for ten instruments, in Cologne;

  • 1963 - Lou Harrison: "Pacifika Rondo" for an orchestra of Western and Oriental instruments, at the University of Hawaii;

  • 1964 - Copland: "Music for a Great City" (from the filmscore to "Something Wild"), by the London Symphony conducted by the composer;

  • 1967 - George Crumb: "Echoes of Time and the River (Four Processionals for Orchestra)", in Chicago; This work won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1967;

  • 1990 - Philip Glass: chamber opera "Hydrogen Jukebox" (to poems by Allen Ginsberg), by the Philip Glass ensemble conducted by Martin Goldray, in a staged version presented at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C,; A concert version was premiered at the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia, on April 29, 1990;

  • 2001 - Birtwistle: "Tango for Betty," dedicated to the 80-year old music patron, Betty Freeman, by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting; (see May 25 & 27 as well);

  • 2002 - Henry Brant: "Ghosts and Gargoyles" for solo flute and flute ensemble, in Toronto, Canada, by soloist Robert Aitken and the New Music Concerts Ensemble, conducted by the composer;


  • 1731 - London's "Academy for Vocal Music" is renamed "The Academy of Ancient Music, with Johann Christoph Pepsuch its artistic director (Gregorian date: June 6).

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®