Every Duke Chorale rehearsal is a homecoming for Allan Friedman

Duke Chorale director Allan Friedman in front of trees
Allan Friedman joins the Duke Music faculty this fall as Director of the Duke Chorale. Friedman's connection to the Chorale runs deep, as he was a member of the group during his days as an undergraduate at Duke. After graduating in 1999 with a major in Music, including studies in South Africa with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, he earned a Masters in Musicology from UNC - Chapel Hill (2001) and a D.M.A. in Choral Conducting from Boston University (2005) with a dissertation on Russian Jewish Choral Music.

The Director of Music and Congregational Engagement at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, NC, as well as the Director for SONAM (Singers of New and Ancient Music), Friedman looks forward to sharing his more than 20 years of conducting experience with a new generation of Duke students.

As a Duke alumnus, how does it feel to be back on campus?

Thrilling!  While I had eight great years conducting at Duke Chapel from 2004-2012, Biddle Music Building was my home base as an undergraduate in the late '90s and it feels incredible (and a bit humbling) to be able to stand in Bone Hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays with excellent student musicians and to give back to an ensemble that means so much to me.

What is your favorite memory of singing with the Duke Chorale as a student?

There are many!  The first that comes to mind is coming back to East Campus on the bus as a freshman after an early fall Chorale rehearsal and singing some music we had just learned with 9-10 other first year students.  It was at that moment I felt like I'd found my Duke family.

The Duke Chorale has many traditions, like the annual Christmas concert and the spring break tour. What traditions do you plan to keep and what new ideas are you planning to incorporate?

We'll be continuing many of the traditions of the group including tours, our Christmas concert in Duke Chapel, and our Celebration concert at the end of the year. 

There are two areas of collaboration I'm especially interested in expanding.  The first is increasing opportunities to make music with other Duke Music groups. We're looking forward to participating in a number of departmental concerts and hope to be able to perform pieces by faculty and student composers. Another goal I have for the Chorale this year is an increased presence in Durham through musical exchanges with K-12 music students, service projects with various organizations, benefit concerts supporting local non-profits, and visits to continuing care facilities. 

What makes the Duke Chorale special?

The Chorale is a close community of singers who care about each other as people. Because of this, the group is often more emotionally invested than many choirs. We strive to make historically and culturally informed music from a variety of traditions. Many students would say that the memories and friendships they make in Chorale are the highlights of their time at Duke. There's a strong alumni presence that remains in contact with each other and supports the current singers in their efforts to add their voices to the legacy of the chorus. 

What is your favorite piece of choral music, either to sing or to direct? How did you discover it?

This is almost impossible to answer!  I adore the music of JS Bach, Brahms, Caroline Shaw, Moses Hogan, Erik Esenwalds, and so many more.  Today I would say Victoria's Requiem for Six Voices, but if you were to ask me tomorrow I would have a different answer. As is true of many of my favorite pieces, I learned this piece singing in the Duke Chorale.