2018-09-12 / Features


David Close

David Close is the artistic director and conductor of the Oratorio Society of Queens and founder, artistic director and conductor of the Orchestral Arts Ensemble of Queens. He is the music director and conductor of the Great Neck Choral Society and the founder and artistic director emeritus of Musica Reginae Productions, a professional classical music production arts organization in Queens. As a pianist, Close has appeared as recitalist and also as a collaborative artist in vocal and chamber music recitals. He regularly toured with the Paul Whiteman Historic 1924 Aeolian Hall Concert throughout the US and Canada. Close is an active composer and arranger, and is currently the music director and organist at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills, and organist at Temple Am Echad in Lynbrook. He is very proud about being honored, along with his wife, LeeAnn, and Assembly Member David Weprin at the Oratorio Society of Queens’ 90th Anniversary Gala this past June.

QG: What is the history of the Oratorio Society of Queens?

DC: The Oratorio Society of Queens, originally known as the Oratorio Society of Flushing, was founded in 1927. The idea of a community-based mixed voice chorus, dedicated to sharing the aesthetic values choral music expresses, was conceived by Mrs. Edward Keefe as Queens’ answer to the Oratorio Society of New York.

The charter members were drawn from Flushing’s several old, prominent families and in keeping with the democratic spirit historically associated with Flushing, membership was open to all. Among other members was Bertha Parsons, the last owner-resident of Bowne House before it was opened as a museum of early Flushing. On May 12, 1927 a chorus of 100 voices directed by John Norton performed Mendelssohn’s “Hymn of Praise” to critical acclaim before an audience of 900 at Flushing High School.

In 1985 the Oratorio Society of Flushing changed its name to the Oratorio Society of Queens (OSQ) in recognition of membership deriving from all parts of Queens. The entire borough was learning that one need not travel to Manhattan for classical music, one could go to St. Andrew Avellino Church, the Reformed Temple of Forest Hills, Trinity Lutheran Church, Christ the King High School, Flushing Meadows Corona Park under the Unisphere, Seuffert Bandshell in Forest Park, Bayside High School, and Colden Center. The Oratorio Society appeared at the 1940 World’s Fair and in later years at Lincoln Center. For its 50th anniversary, Queens Symphony asked OSQ to partner with them to perform Verdi’s "Requiem" at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center.

OSQ’s reputation for near professional sound and attitude has garnered the respect of all who have heard the group.

QG: What aspect of your position at the OSQ are you most proud of?

DC: My favorite aspect of our work with the Oratorio Society of Queens is that of making music available to the diverse population of Queens, the opportunity to experience, either as singers or listeners, the unequaled masterworks of choral music of Western Civilization and the great variety of music which is part of the American choral tradition.

QG: What are some of your favorite places in Queens to shop and dine?

DC: There are four restaurants that we frequent: La Baraka in Little Neck, Portofino in Forest Hills, Primo Amore in Bayside, and London Lennie's in Rego Park.

QG: Who are your favorite performing artists/singers and what is your favorite music?

DC: My favorite performers are those who bring life and soul to their performances no matter what the genre.

QG: Are there any upcoming events you would like our readers to know about?

DC: The Sacred Music of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs presents its Annual Christmas Concert on Sunday December 9 at 4 pm at OLQM Church in Forest Hills; and the Oratorio Society of Queens presents its Annual Holiday Concert at Queensborough Performing Arts Center in Bayside on Sunday, December 16 at 4 pm. I am conducting both concerts with full orchestra, soloists and choruses of 100+ members.

This column was originated in July, 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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