Last updated: November 2, 2020
Bruce Lamott To Retire as Director of Philharmonia Chorale After 23 Years
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) announces today that Bruce Lamott, director of the Philharmonia Chorale, is retiring after 23 years. Lamott first performed with PBO in 1989 as continuo harpsichordist for Handel’s Giustino and became Chorale director in 1997; he has led the Chorale for nearly its entire lifespan, honing its 24 voices into an instrument in and of itself, matching the caliber of the Orchestra. In 2015, PBO updated its name to Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale to reflect the Chorale’s excellence and equal role in music-making within the institution. The Chorale has been endowed since 2007, another affirmation of its worth and superior artistry, and the Robert and Laura Cory Chorale Director chair was established in 2011.
“There’s no question that my tenure with the Philharmonia Chorale has been the most fulfilling activity of my musical life,” said Lamott. “Being Nicholas McGegan’s sous chef was a privilege, as was leading the ‘army of generals’ that is the Chorale. Directing them was more a matter of facilitating their excellent stylistic instincts than dictating them. Beyond interaction with the music itself, the mutual admiration that thrives between the orchestra, singers, and conductor has given our work a dimension of expression that is seldom achieved. I am grateful to Executive Director Courtney Beck and the Board of Directors for their recognition of the essential role of the Chorale as reflected in their decision to append ‘and Chorale’ to the name of the ensemble. I was hoping to turn the keys of the Chorale over to Richard Egarr and watch his reaction when he test-drove the full ensemble for the first time. I wish him well as he negotiates the limitations that our times have pressed upon him and know for certain that he’ll discover that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
During his tenure, Lamott has brought out a peerless, ethereal sound from the Chorale in repertoire spanning Handel oratorios to newly commissioned works, including the oratorio The Listeners by Pulitzer Prize–winner Caroline Shaw, which PBO premiered in 2019 and released as part of an album in 2020. Some of Lamott’s self-proclaimed favorite performances are the 15 Handel oratorios he prepared, including Saul, which he led in both 1998 and 2019, at the beginning and end of his career with Philharmonia. The 2019 Saul won San Francisco Classical Voice’s award for Best Choral Performance in the Bay Area and was released digitally in June of 2020. Lamott also cites the rarely performed Trauermusik by Johann Ludwig Bach as the most exciting discovery of the 85 choral works he prepared for Philharmonia.
PBO Music Director Richard Egarr said, “Although I haven’t known Bruce long, it is clear that he is a broad-minded, inquisitive, and brilliant musician. He has made the Chorale an invaluable and utterly indispensable part of Philharmonia. He will be sorely missed and we wish him much happiness and joy in the future. For the first post-pandemic season I intend to spend time myself rehearsing and conducting the Chorale so I can really get to know them. I’m so much looking forward to this time and steering the Chorale and the entire Philharmonia family forward.”
Though he will retire from directing the Chorale, Lamott will remain active within the organization as Scholar-in-Residence, a title he has held for the past six years. As Scholar-in-Residence, Lamott has fully immersed himself in PBO’s educational programs for both youth and adults; he writes lively and informative program notes and blog posts for PBO programs, and gives pre-concert lectures and demonstrations to groups within the Bay Area and beyond.
“Bruce has given 23 years to Philharmonia, and in that time, his ensemble of exceptional voices has been recognized again and again for its superior artistry,” said PBO Executive Director Courtney Beck. “Beyond the singular and beautiful sound of the Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce is part of the fabric of PBO—at pre-concert talks, mingling with the PBO family at concerts and events, joining us on tour. While Bruce is stepping away from his Chorale duties, we are thrilled that he will remain involved. Bruce, with his trademark grace, is making a decision to go out on top.”
While concert halls remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Music Director Richard Egarr will take over Lamott’s duties, leading both the Orchestra and Chorale in the first season that live performances are allowed to resume. An international search for Lamott’s replacement will begin during that time.