Dr. Robert Ray, Director of the Saint Louis Symphony IN UNISON® Chorus since its inception in 1994, announced his retirement today. Ray’s final performance in Powell Hall with both the Chorus and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra will be the annual Lift Every Voice: A Black History Month Celebration concert on Friday, February 19 at 7:30 p.m. His final concert with the In Unison Chorus will be April 25, 2010 at the Westside Missionary Baptist Church .
“It’s been wonderful,” Ray said of his 15 years as director of the In Unison Chorus. “The Chorus has been a remarkable statement for our Symphony’s commitment to diversity. It’s unprecedented.”
The In Unison Chorus was created to perform Hannibal Peterson’s African Portraits. Ray was already serving as an assistant to the n-Director of the Saint Louis Symphony Chorus, the late Thomas Peck. Ray was asked to put toge the r a chorus to sing Peterson’s work at Powell Hall. “It was a combination of African-American members of the community and members of the Symphony Chorus. We nurtured and grew the chorus after the initial performance. It was so successful we were asked to form an official In Unison Chorus. And now it’s a model program for orchestras all over the world,” Ray said.
SLSO Music Director David Robertson said in response to Ray’s announcement: “One of my great experiences came this season when the Saint Louis Symphony Chorus and the In Unison Chorus were on the Powell Hall stage together for the first time ever, performing Tippett’s A Child of Our Time. The two choruses toge the r embodied what so much of that piece is about—that if we focus on what unites us as human beings, ra the r than our differences, we may not only dream of, but attain a better world. Robert Ray’s leadership throughout the life of the In Unison Chorus has always been about that dream, strived for through artistry and impeccable musicianship. He’s been a great asset to the Orchestra and I treasure the work we’ve done toge the r. I will miss him.”
SLSO President and Executive Director Fred Bronstein said, “The community engagement programs of the SLSO have for more than twenty years served as a model for others, and no one has represented the vibrancy and commitment of those programs with more efficacy than Robert Ray. Robert’s work with the SLSO has been pioneering and inspirational. As the founder of the IN UNISON Chorus, and after fifteen years at its helm, Robert leaves a huge mark of accomplishment and reservoir of pride for a very unique aspect of this orchestra’s relationship with its community, one that could not have been imagined without Robert.”
Ray has worked with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, both as Saint Louis Symphony Chorus assistant and In Unison director, for 25 years. Ray is a graduate of St. Louis Public Schools. He attended Northwestern University , where he received his Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance. For 12 years he served as accompanist-coach for the string department at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. While the re, he also organized the Black Student Chorus and prepared the m for performances with such artists as Ossie Davis, Max Roach, James Cleveland, and Edwin Hawkins.