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Pennsylvania, New Jersey Artists Shine in Grammy Awards

Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin
Jeff Fusco
Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin

Musicians and conductors from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York were well-represented on the recordings receiving Grammy Awards this past Sunday.

Conductors Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Xian Zhang, and choral ensemble The Crossing, were among artists from around the region who won Grammy Awards this past Sunday in classical categories, making for a near-sweep of the classical categories by artists with ties to New Jersey, Pennsylvania or New York.

In addition, the New York Youth Symphony made Grammy history as the first youth orchestra to win a Grammy in the Best Orchestral Performance category, and to be nominated in the first place, for its album "Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman."

Nézet-Séguin, who just extended his contract to serve as music and artistic director of the Philadelphia Orchestra through 2030, won in two categories - Best Classical Solo Vocal Album for "Voice Of Nature - The Anthropocene," recorded with soprano Renée Fleming, in which he plays piano, and Best Opera Recording for the Metropolitan Opera's recording of Terence Blanchard's Fire Shut Up In My Bones. He had been nominated for three other recordings in his role with the Met, where he is also music director - Matthew Aucoin's Eurydice, also in the Best Opera Recording; the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus' recording of Verdi's Requiem in memory of 9/11 in the Best Choral Performance; and "A Concert for Ukraine", recorded by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, for Best Classical Compendium category. Nézet-Séguin won his first Grammy last year with the Philadelphia Orchestra for its recording of Florence Price's Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3.

The Grammy for Best Classical Instrumental Solo went to the album "Letters for the Future" featuring the trio Time for Three performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Zhang. This was the first Grammy both for the trio, whose three original founders met while students at The Curtis Institute for Music, and for Zhang, who is music director of the New Jersey Symphony. Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Kevin Puts won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Contact, one of the works featured on the album. The New Jersey Symphony has programmed the piece for one of its concerts next season.

The Philadelphia vocal ensemble The Crossing picked up its third Grammy, earning the award for its album "BORN: music of Edie Hill and Michael Gilbertson." Conductor Donald Nally said in an interview that the award can help introduce new listeners to new music and contemporary composer composers.

"We're all very excited about it because this is an opportunity for a lot more people to tune in to hear Edie Hill and Michael Gilbertson's pieces, and we really believe in these pieces," Nally said.

"Our goals are to expand the repertoire and create some pieces that will become the choral canon, and at the same time, capture the time that we're in, that we are here, and what it feels like to be here, works that really talk about the world we live in," he said. "So for us, obviously having a Grammy Award, it makes people notice because the Grammy is a thing that, even if you don't know anything about choral music, you go, I do know what a Grammy is."

In accepting the Best Orchestral Performance Grammy, New York Youth Symphony conductor Michael Repper addressed his young musicians, who were watching together in New York along with family and symphony alumni.

"I want to say, this is for you, and this is not just for you, but for young people everywhere. I'm so proud of you," Repper said.

Repper, who is a member of the Recording Academy, also said the milestone highlighted the importance of young musicians. "It just affirms to me, if it's not the most important thing we can do, one of the most important things as members of the Academy we can do is look out for the next generation." The young musicians recorded the album during the pandemic, with different groups of instruments recording on separate days because of the COVID restrictions on how many people could be in one space. Except for the wind players, all the musicians wore masks during the sessions. Judith Sherman, who produced the album, was named Classical Producer of the Year.

The New York-based Attacca Quartet received the Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance with its album "Shaw: Evergreen," which features works by composer Caroline Shaw, who studied at Princeton University.

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