The Classical Station’s interview with Al Sturgis for Preview!

Interview with Al Sturgis
by Bethany Tillerson (Photo credit: Denny Colvin)

Our Preview guest this week is Dr. Al Sturgis, the Music Director of the North Carolina Master Chorale, discussing their upcoming programs. This will be the NC Master Chorale’s 81st season! If you’d like to find more information about upcoming programs or buy tickets, please visit

KENNEDY: Al Sturgis, tell us about the upcoming season for the North Carolina Master Chorale. What’s the first concert we can expect to hear?

STURGIS: We’re really excited about our first concert, which will be on November 10th in the Meymandi Concert Hall. It opens for us what is to be rather an eclectic season. The first piece is by Reena Esmail. Reena is an Indian-American composer from the West Coast. She has a post with the Los Angeles Master Chorale as the Artist-in-Residence, and was a Composer-in-Residence with the Seattle Symphony. She’s writing some wonderful music.

We’re doing a piece by Reena called The Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity. Very interestingly, she juxtaposes Indian and Western classical styles in this piece, as well as instruments. She has a Baroque-sized orchestra, but she includes in it the tabla and the sitar. She has seven movements setting the words of the seven major religious traditions of India, and it’s a really wonderful piece, very colorful and beautiful. We’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks already and our choir is really taking to it and enjoying it. Our youth choir will be singing with us for a couple of movements and they’ll present pieces by Reena as well to open the concert. In between we’ll be doing Bach’s Cantata 140, which also has themes of unity and relationships, so this should be an interesting, different concert for us. We’re also featuring some Indian visual art in the lobby. The Leela Foundation will be providing Indian dancers to do movements on stage in the auditorium during the performance. So it should be really an interesting program.

KENNEDY: Then you have your big Christmas concert coming up in December.

STURGIS: Our annual Joy of the Season will be Tuesday, December 12, also in the Meymandi Concert Hall, and this will feature our three choirs: our chamber choir, our big 170-voice symphonic choir, and also our new youth choir.

KENNEDY: In the spring, what exciting events do you have planned for us?

STURGIS: Our annual Romance in the Air, a Valentine-themed program, will be done at the Transfer Company Food Hall in downtown Raleigh. We’re also going to be singing at Raleigh’s historic Rialto Theatre, which has recently reopened, and they’re returning that space to not only to be used for film, but also for concert appearances, which is historically how the theater began. We’re going to be doing a special program there called Master Chorale Goes to the Movies, featuring the classic songs of historic cinema: MGM films, Henry Mancini, James Bond, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Disney, Star Wars; the list goes on and on. And then another interesting venue that we will be returning to will be the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, a beautiful sonic and acoustical space, to do the Sunrise Mass of Ola Gjeila, the Norwegian composer. We’ll also do works by Pärt, Mendelssohn, and Rheinberger on that program.

To wrap up the season, we’ll have a 40-voice chamber choir doing a program called All the Colors of the World, during which we use the concept of color as a prism for viewing our natural world and the humanity that comprises it and celebrating our differences and our similarities. It makes a nice bookend with Reena Email’s piece, The Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity.

KENNEDY: Dr. Al Sturgis, thank you so much for telling us about the North Carolina Master Chorale’s upcoming season. I wish you much luck.

Join us to listen to Al Sturgis’ interview on Sunday, October 21, at 7 p.m. Listen on, 89.7 FM, or our app.