Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Conducting Professor David Keith was recently given the opportunity to conduct in what is arguably one of the most significant venues for classical and popular music in the United States.
“Being able to perform great music any place is a great opportunity,” Keith said. “Having the chance to perform at Carnegie Hall, which is maybe the best-known concert hall, certainly in the United States, was a great thrill.”
Keith was one of three guest conductors June 3 at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, New York. He led several choirs from around the United States and the New England Symphonic Ensemble in the performance of Mozart’s Requiem. Keith said he was asked by Mid-America Productions Company, which produced the performance, if he would be one of the guest conductors for the day’s event.
“It really exceeded my expectations because the chorus sang at such a high level with such minimal amount of rehearsal time,” Keith said. “The conductors of the choirs had done a beautiful job of preparing them for what I wanted to do and for my interpretation of the music.”
Southwestern School of Church Music Dean Stephen Johnson noted that Keith’s appearance at Carnegie Hall is a wonderful example of the high level of professionalism that exists among Southwestern faculty.
“David is known to be extremely committed to removing musical imperfections from a performance so that what is left is unhindered expressive communication,” Johnson said. “I am thrilled that our students get the opportunity to study with someone like David.”
Keith said the most thrilling part of this event was the opportunity it gave him as a Christian to take music of excellence into the secular world, just as he has been able to do through various other performances around the United States, and around the world.
“Sometimes people in the secular world think that Christian people can’t match up to the level of other people in their performance and in their management styles and in their skills because they have committed themselves to a Christian calling,” he said, noting that such events as the one at Carnegie Hall and the numerous Christians performing there illustrate that those thoughts are not true.
Keith recalled that the audience of this sold-out performance responded greatly to the Requiem performance, as did those who produced the event.
“The executive director of the company that produced the performance said to me that there was electricity in the performance and he can’t remember the last time he heard anything like that,” Keith recalled.
Participating choruses included some members of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Oratorio Chorus from Fort Worth, the Hawaii Choir of Brigham Young University of Laie, Hawaii, Middletown City Chorale of Middletown, New York, Marist College Chamber Choir of Poughkeepsie, New York, Celebration Choir First Baptist Church in Fairborn, Ohio, and PikeView High School Chorale in Princeton, West Virginia.
“It’s a wonderful hall, and to me, I think it’s the history of the hall, knowing that the greatest artists in the world have stood on the very stage that I got to be on,” Keith said.
Johnson noted that students at Southwestern are able to have similar opportunities as the one at Carnegie Hall several times each year as they perform with a professional symphony, under the direction of Keith. In the spring of 2007, Johnson noted that students in the Oratorio Chorus, along with the Fort Worth Symphony, will be led in the performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
“That work is such a monumental undertaking, that it will truly only happen once for many of our students,” Johnson said. “This is all due to the ability and effort of Dr. Keith.”
In addition to being a professor of conducting at Southwestern, Keith also serves as the chair of the department of conducting and ensemble activities, and the Robert L. Burton Chair of Conducting. He also serves as chorus master of the Fort Worth Symphony Chorus.