The Emmanuel Music Ensemble is a collective group of singers and instrumentalists that together, under the direction of Music Director Craig Smith, performs a wide variety of music ranging from small chamber ensembles to large-scale works. The Boston Globe calls Emmanuel Music "a treasure and an incredible prize" and the New York Times has hailed the group as "authoritative, performing with intelligence, tenderness and with an involving commitment and character."
The group was founded in 1970 by Craig Smith to perform the complete cycle of over 200 sacred cantatas by J.S. Bach in the liturgical setting for which they were intended. The cycle, which has been completed twice, continues today at Boston's Emmanuel Church. All performances draw their vocal and instrumental soloists from the core group of Emmanuel musicians. Emmanuel Music has expanded its repertoire over the years, to include large-scale works by Bach, major symphonic works, Mozart operas, Händel operas and oratorios, Schütz choral works, premieres of works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Principal Guest Conductor of Emmanuel Music John Harbison, and chamber series devoted to the complete vocal, piano, and chamber works of Schumann, Debussy, Brahms, and, currently, a 7-year survey of Schubert - a schedule that totals 50 performances per year. Guest conductors have included composer John Harbison, Seiji Ozawa, Christopher Hogwood, and noted Bach scholar Christoph Wolff.
Through its many performances, Emmanuel Music provides talented and eager musicians with a milieu in which to perform and perfect their art. Three chamber groups associated with Emmanuel Music have won the coveted Naumburg Award for excellence - the Lydian String Quartet, the Emmanuel Wind Quintet and the vocal group Liederkreis. Emmanuel Music achieved international recognition from audiences and critics alike in its innovative collaborations with the Mark Morris Dance Group, and stage director Peter Sellars. Emmanuel Music made its European debut in 1989 in Brussels at the Theatre de la Monnaie, and in May, 1997 embarked on a highly successful tour of France and Germany with stage director Peter Sellars in performances of Weill/Bach: Mahagonny Songspiel; Conversations Between Fear and Death where the newspaper Le Figaro praised the group for "it's flabbergasting level of singers, the playing of the orchestra and the conducting of Craig Smith."
In addition to its many performances, Emmanuel Music sponsors educational activities with The Emmanuel Children's Choir, made up of children from diverse neighborhoods of Boston and the Boston Metropolitan area. Emmanuel Music is presented weekly on WGBH radio in its own "radio series" of the Bach Cantatas on Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM, and has been the subject of numerous national radio and television specials, among them CBS Sunday Morning, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The Connection, and NPR's Performance Today. The group has completed two recording projects for KOCH International - a highly acclaimed project featuring choral works of Heinrich Schütz, and as a result of the close association with composer John Harbison, a CD recording of music he has written especially for Emmanuel Music. The group has begun a Bach recording project with Koch that features Cantatas of J.S Bach, and the St. John Passion (BWV 245), 1725 version. Emmanuel Music has received major awards from Chamber Music America, the Aaron Copland Fund for New Music, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Emmanuel Music is in residence at the C. Walsh Theatre at Suffolk University and Emmanuel Church.
Ryan Turner was named Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music beginning in the 2010-2011 season. Composer John Harbison continues as Principal Guest Conductor.