Dr. Brian Preston Harlow has been appointed the new director of the Rutgers University–Newark Chorus, ushering in a new era for the renowned group.
Harlow takes over for Dr. John Floreen, who recently retired after 36 years as head of the chorus.
Dr. Harlow is a distinguished organist, choral director and music teacher. He holds the degrees of Doctor of Musical Arts, Master of Musical Arts, and Master of Music from Yale University School of Music, as well as the Bachelor of Music degree with High Distinction from Indiana University School of Music.
Prior to Floreen’s retirement, Harlow had established a close working relationship with the longtime director and his assistant conductor, Dr. Susan McAadoo, accompanying the chorus on piano for several years and touring Germany with the group in spring 2014.
“It was John who first approached me about the possibility of taking over the chorus after his retirement,” says Harlow. “It was extremely helpful to have that background, and I am happy to know a number of the chorus members personally.
It is, of course, Floreen, who is credited with building the student-alumni chorus into a musical juggernaut.
He took over the group in 1979 with only a handful of student singers. Under his leadership, the chorus grew in size and flourished, performing nine international tours as well as scores of concerts on campus and in the greater Newark area, delighting audiences on two continents. He and the chorus also released six CD recordings of their performances, enhancing their international exposure.
Ever mindful of the history and legacy resting on his shoulders, Harlow has prepared thoroughly for the transition, starting with planning the fall repertoire, which includes a few numbers performed under Floreen, plus new pieces, one of which Harlow composed.
I’ll continue to look for excellent and stimulating repertoire from all cultures and periods and aim for variety and diversity.
He also found an assistant, the New York–based professional singer Michele Kennedy, to help with vocal technique at rehearsals; got in touch with past chorus members while recruiting new ones; booked performance venues; dug around RU-N’s music library; and introduced himself to colleagues in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media
Harlow is also not short on ideas.
“I’ll continue to look for excellent and stimulating repertoire from all cultures and periods and aim for variety and diversity,” says Harlow. “I'm also thinking about giving the spring concert a specific theme that will link the various musical selections together. And I am interested in using a variety of instruments to enhance the singing of the choir. Of course, you can't do everything in a year, so these are long-term thoughts and dreams.”
Harlow has the goods to carry out that ambitious plan.
He has received a number of prestigious awards from both schools and the American Guild of Organists, is a member of the board of the Metropolitan New Jersey chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and is the Instrumental Music Reviewer for the Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians.
He also has high hopes for the chorus’ future.
“I look forward to building on the excellent musical foundations that have been laid over many years by John and Susan. The chorus is a great group of people and a fantastic part of the cultural scene of both Rutgers-Newark and the city of Newark,” says Harlow. “Very strong bonds have been created between the members and alumni, especially through the international tours. It will be exciting to see what is in store for them over the next 30 years.”