Gisèle Becker is one of the Washington area’s leading choral conductors. Her vision of musical excellence and her commitment to imaginative programming, including commissions and premiere performances of new choral works, have earned for her the highest admiration and respect from her professional colleagues and audiences alike. The Washington Post says Ms. Becker “has molded her group into a well-balanced and responsive ensemble … focused, intelligent music-making.” The Post called her 2003 performance of J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor “a version as transfixing as it was bold … riveting in its fresh, impassioned and personal vision.”
Ms. Becker has been the music director of Cantate Chamber Singers since January 1994. She serves as director of choral activities at George Washington University, where she conducts the University Singers, Chamber Choir, and Women’s Chorus. From 2006 to 2008 she was a conducting professor at The Catholic University of America, where she also conducted the Women’s Chorus. For 26 years Ms. Becker served as assistant conductor of the Washington Bach Consort, and she also has served as chorus-master for the Cathedral Choral Society.
Ms. Becker’s extensive experience in choral preparation has included the Folger Consort’s Dido and Aeneas and Handel’s Ode to St. Cecilia. For the Cathedral Choral Society she prepared Hindemith’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d for guest conductor Robert Shaw and Haydn’s The Creation for Leonard Slatkin. She has prepared the Washington Bach Consort for its performances of Handel’s Messiah with conductor Robert King, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 with Harry Christophers, and Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 4 and Sofia Gubaidulina’s The Canticle of the Sun with the National Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin conducting.
Ms. Becker earned her bachelor of music degree from The Catholic University of America and master of music degree from George Mason University, and she is pursuing her doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Maryland. She also has served on the faculties of Trinity College in Washington and the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Va. In addition to her conducting activities, she is actively engaged as a recording producer and as a festival adjudicator and clinician.
Andrew Earle Simpson, composer and pianist, is professor and chair of the Division of Theory and Composition at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is a composer of opera, silent film, orchestral,chamber, choral, and vocal music. His most recent projects reflect an interest in theatrical music and humanistic subjects. He has received awards and grants from such organizations as the American Music Center, the American Composers Forum, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, the Loeb Classical Library Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, and the Maryland State Arts Council.
Simpson received the degree of doctor of music in composition from Indiana University in 1995, the degree of master of music in composition from Boston University in 1992, and the degree of bachelor of music in theory and composition from Butler University in 1990. His teachers have included Lukas Foss, Claude Baker, Eugene O’Brien, Frederick Fox, and Michael Schelle. Simpson also created and currently directs the Master of Music in Composition, Stage Music Emphasis program, which opened at Catholic University in August 2005. This innovative graduate program, unique in its scope, teaches composers to write for the stage by combining practical training in collaborative theatrical composition with academic course work.
Simpson’s chamber and orchestral music has been performed across the United States and abroad in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He also is an active composer and performer of new scores for silent film. He is the House Film Accompanist for the Library of Congress’ Mount Pony Theater in Culpeper, Va., and performs frequently at the National Gallery of Art.
Simpson also has performed his silent film music at the Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy; the Sala Cecelia Meireles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the Kennedy Center; the New York Public Library; the AFI Silver Theatre; the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Slapsticon; and other venues.
He is also co-founder of the Snark Ensemble, an instrumental group devoted to creating and performing new scores for silent film, which appears with Cantate Chamber Singers in Maurice Saylor’s The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits, scheduled for release by Naxos in September 2011. Several of Simpson’s new film scores, for chamber ensemble, jazz trio, and piano solo, appear on the DVD box set Becoming Charley Chase, released by All Day Entertainment in July 2009.
Dr. Simpson is serving as Cantate's Composer-In-Residence during the 2011 - 2012 season.
Deborah Sternberg, Chair
Steven Alan Honley, Vice Chair
Stephanie Cabell, Secretary
Robin A. Pennington, Treasurer
Chris KingDavid Klaus
Gisèle Becker, Music Director
Judith F. Davis, Coordinator, Young Composers' Contest
Judith Guenther, Executive Director
Wayne Guenther, Business Manager
Andrew E. Simpson, Keyboard Artist, Composer in Residence