The news of Dave Brubeck’s passing reverberated around the world last week and was felt by many here in Chattanooga for a very particular reason other than Brubeck’s more well-known musical contributions.
Back in 2000, Brubeck performed here with his quartet. Surprising to many at this performance, Brubeck also debuted a collection of sacred choral works with Choral Arts of Chattanooga with conductor Philip Rice at the podium. In May 2002, Brubeck returned to perform his choral compositions again, but during that visit he recorded the choral works during a week-long session, again with Choral Arts and Rice conducting. The recording was titled Brubeck In Chattanooga and was released on CD late in 2002.
Brubeck was passionate about choral music, focused on it intently during his later years and developed a quick connection to the Chattanooga chorus and Rice during his first visit. No doubt, the long tradition of Choral Arts of Chattanooga as a cohesive, performing choral group was significant in the development of the Brubeck connection and his desire to have them perform his work.
Chattanooga pianist and Choral Arts member Terry Sanford is one example of Brubeck’s bias towards the Scenic City talent pool. Brubeck described Sanford as “the only person in the world who can play the orchestral reduction of the Alleluia,” referring to Sanford accompanying the conductor in rehearsals of Brubeck’s “Mass To Hope.”
The dedication of Choral Arts and it’s members, Rice and many community arts supporters made it possible for our city to be honored with Brubeck’s presence and to have a legacy of his monumental contributions with a world premier recording of his choral works.