At the center of Ryan’s work with Emmanuel Music and at Emmanuel Church is the music of J. S. Bach. He has conducted nearly all of the sacred cantatas as well as the larger masterworks: the St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion, St. Mark Passion (in his own reconstruction), Mass in B minor, and Christmas Oratorio, as well as the complete Orchestral Suites. Another soon-to-be-celebrated milestone is Ryan’s completion of the entire cycle of Bach’s sacred cantatas.
Though it is risky, cheeky, even spooky to attempt to conjure or speak for the dead, but with this landmark I cannot help thinking of Craig [Smith]—back and forth about whether Emmanuel Music could, should, or would go on after him? I hear him, now, loud of voice, claiming—"of course it should”.
Ryan Turner, with the help of Michael Beattie and Pat Krol, and the support of Pam Werntz and Emmanuel Church has led Emmanuel through ten adventurous years. He has sustained traditions, and welcomed innovation. He has kept the program at the center of Boston’s musical life. He has maintained the Bach Cantatas as the heart of Emmanuel Music’s mission.
Surely it was not easy or obvious how to navigate this decade at Emmanuel. The key has been Ryan’s high abilities as a conductor, one who establishes his influence by being able to Do it, week to week, with an abundance of the necessary organizational, psychological and technical skills.
(All of us benefit from his uncommon abilities, but I consider myself especially fortunate, since he has been on so many occasions an ideal conductor of my pieces, from short motets to big chunks—Great Gatsby, Symphony Five. )
We are poised, optimistic, ready for our next decade together.
Sending every good wish to you as we mark the tenth anniversary of your artistic leadership of Emmanuel Music. Thanks for sharing your many gifts in this role. Through your commitment to innovation, excellence and collaboration Emmanuel Music has blossomed in its programmatic offerings. Your strong pastoral sense and care for members of the ensemble have engendered loyalty for the organization. Your energetic advocacy for teaching the next generation of musicians and serving the community is an inspiration. It has been my great privilege to witness your growth and to share in the work of building this institution with fellow ensemble members, staff and board. We have all been blessed by your presence. Peace.
A champion of new music, Ryan has programmed and premiered the works of composers John Harbison, James Primosch, Matthew Aucoin, Brett Johnson, Ben Houge, Sid Richardson, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Yehudi Wyner, Kati Agócs, and many others.
As an opera conductor, he has led performances with the Boston Lyric Opera of Frank Martin’s Le Vin Herbé and Philip Glass’s In The Penal Colony. At Emmanuel Music: Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress; Harbison’s The Great Gatsby; Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, Die Entführung ausdem Serail, and Apollo et Hyacinthus; Handel’s Susanna and Apollo e Dafne; Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins; Sondheim’s A Little Night Music; and Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera—many in collaboration with stage directors Nathan Troup and Lynn Torgove.
My association with Emmanuel Music has all been due to my encounter with Ryan Turner, when he and I worked together at Boston Lyric Opera. He did superb work with our singers and prepared Martin’s Le Vin Herbé, and then was a wonderful and supportive colleague and friend, culminating in his conducting of a spectacular performance. He also conducted BLO’s production of Philip Glass’ The Penal Colony in his own right, to great acclaim. I can’t begin to describe the pleasure I have had participating, at Ryan’s invitation, in the occasional Sunday morning music-making, working with such wonderful players and singers, sharing their enthusiasm and passion. I am very envious of the wonderful programming that Ryan manages to put together at Emmanuel, and the excellent team that he has built up. Congratulations on 10 wonderful years!
It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed already since Ryan took the helm at Emmanuel Music! It has been such a joy to work alongside Ryan as he has taken the legacy of Craig Smith and made it his own. Ryan’s thoughtful and collaborative spirit has been an inspiration to me in my journey as a musician. From the rehearsal room to the stage, his attentive care for musical and textual detail as well as his respect for the musician behind the music-making leads to performances that are full of generosity and deep human emotion. From weekly Bach cantatas, to large-scale operas like The Great Gatsby, to chamber performances of Wolf or Britten, it has been a highlight of each season to make music with him in projects great and small, and I am thankful for his leadership at Emmanuel Music.
Ryan’s “other” musical life as a tenor soloist should not be forgotten! Some highlights include performances with the Mark Morris Dance Group in Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato; six seasons with the Carmel Bach Festival; and fifteen years as tenor soloist with Emmanuel Music. He made his Carnegie Hall debut as the tenor soloist in Handel’s Messiah in 2008, with a return in 2016. He can be heard in Britten’s Canticle II as part of Emmanuel Music’s current online Britten Festival.
It has been a joy to observe Ryan's career from the early 1990s when we were colleagues at Plymouth State University and where Ryan twice was my sabbatical replacement. We have shared the stage many times and even shared the podium duties on a choral tour in Portugal, supporting one another's projects and dreams for nearly 30 years. Here's to 30 more, my friend. Congratulations!
If this weren’t enough, as Music Director of Emmanuel church, Ryan has overseen well over 360 Sunday services, most including a full Bach Cantata and two motets! At the time of his application, Ryan had some thoughts about Emmanuel that reflected his already deep understanding of the Emmanuel community:
When I began singing at Emmanuel in December of 1997, I was most impressed by two things: one, the artistry and passion of Craig Smith that enabled the very best from the musicians that surrounded him; and two, the warmth and sense of community among the congregation that spread to our musical community."
...prescient words, given the remarkably fruitful years as Music Director that were to follow.
It's been glorious and moving to work with Ryan as Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music over the past ten years. One of the most difficult transitions to make in our field is to move from colleague to director, and it was even more challenging in Ryan's case because he moved from singer to conductor, while filling the shoes of a much-beloved founder who left the position through death. He needed to earn trust and allegiance from musicians who, in some cases, had been members of the ensemble much longer than he; who had strong opinions and their own visions and sense of leadership.
Ryan navigated these dangerous waters with tact, respect, and a firm sense of his own strengths. Instead of imposing ideas by fiat, he asserted his musical vision while maintaining a collegial environment, making room for big personalities and egos and gradually bringing them into the large tent of his artistry.
I've been excited and inspired by Ryan's unerring sense of phrasing; his fearless engagement with difficult or challenging texts and works; and his immense physical and emotional talent as a conductor. Now, on the cusp of his second decade with the ensemble, Ryan is poised to take Emmanuel Music to new heights with an increasingly diverse, creative, and enthusiastic team of artists, staff, and supporters.
Congratulations on your tenth anniversary as Music Director of Emmanuel Church and Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music! I hope you can take some time to reflect on the tremendous musical accomplishments of the last ten years under your leadership. You have managed to navigate your two roles with integrity and grace. If you will indulge my long list, these words come to my mind when I think of you: brilliant, adventuresome, ambitious, compassionate, creative, connective, funny, versatile, precise, expressive, balletic, humble, generous, sensitive, and faithful. So deep is your ability to listen, that you masterfully conduct the most beautiful music in the world, and then relish the silence that follows the most. I cannot believe my lucky stars that I have gotten to work so closely with you these last ten years. You are my treasured colleague, a true companion in liturgy, pastoral care, and organizational care and growth. Here's to the next ten years!
I could not imagine a more perfect successor to Craig Smith. His deep roots with Emmanuel Music enabled him to take up the mantle of the founder seamlessly, honor the legacy of the ensemble as well as the traditions of Emmanuel Church, and enrich and extend us in a way that Craig never could have imagined. In our ten-year partnership I have witnessed his interactions with musicians, patrons, staff colleagues, and our Emmanuel Church family, and Ryan has been sensitive, thoughtful, and generous. I continue to be impressed with his scholarship and musical curiosity that seem endless. I am grateful to have worked side by side with this shining example of what an artistic director should be. Best wishes for many more years at Emmanuel, my friend!
As I gather these photos and beautiful tributes it seems that there is little more to be said. Thank you, Ryan, for these ten fantastic years! You have treasured our traditions, expanded our horizons, raised us to new heights, and embraced our community with a profound sense of collaborative stewardship! On to the next project…