Johannes Somary ’57 MUS ’59, conductor of neglected choral masterpieces from the Baroque and Classical periods, died Feb. 1 in the Bronx due to complications of a stroke. He was 75.
Somary’s life was one filled with music. After graduating from Yale’s School of Music with a master’s degree in 1959, he went on to join the faculty of the Horace Mann School in New York where he served as the chair of the arts and music department until his retirement in 2002. But it was his work as a conductor that best carved his legacy – in 1961, after staging the United States debut of the Handel oratio “Esther” to an enthusiastic reception, Somary endeavored to form his own musical ensemble, Amor Artis.
With Amor Artis, Somary initially gave life to choral works of Schutz, Schubert, Hindemith, and Bruckner from the 17th to 20th centuries. The ensemble, which added a chamber choir in 1980, later sought to bring neglected pieces from this time period to the stage, allowing audiences to enjoy previously unheard music.
The Amor Artis Company released its first CD, a collection of motets and a mass by Tomás Luis de Victoria, in 2010.
Somary dedicated many years in his career to working with church music: In the 1960s and 70s Somary served as the choirmaster and organist at the Church of Our Saviour in Manhattan, and he directed the music ensemble at St. Patrick’s Cathedral from 2001 to 2003. He also conducted the Fairfield County Chorale in Connecticut, the Great Neck Choral Society in Long Island, and the Taghkanic Chorale in Westchester County, N.Y. during his life.
Somary is survived by two sons, a daughter, his wife, Anne, a brother, a sister, and seven grandchildren.
[via New York Times]
Correction: February 9, 2011
In an earlier version of this post, the Handel oratio “Esther” was incorrectly written as “Esher.”