By Barb Van Atta
The Binghamton Downtown Singers and Orchestra are excited to announce that Robert J. Manners has been named their Interim Artistic Director following an extensive, months’ long search.
Marisa Crabb, widow of DTS co-founder Alan Crabb, stepped away from the Artistic Director post following the ensemble’s June 2023 concert. Manners will make his DTS conducting debut Dec. 9 with the Downtown Singers and Orchestra’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah.
A Binghamton-based choral conductor and music educator, Manners currently serves as the concert manager for the Binghamton University Music Department. He also is a general music teacher for St. Mary’s Catholic School in Cortland.
Manners received his bachelor of music in music theory from Nazareth College of Rochester (2014), his masters of music in composition from Florida State University (2016) and his masters of music in choral conducting from Binghamton University (2023). At BU, he studied with William Culverhouse.
While at BU, Manners was the assistant director of the Chamber Singers, Treble Choir and Harpur Chorale and founded a tenor/bass ensemble. A lyric baritone, he serves as section leader and substitute director for the United Presbyterian Church in Binghamton, as well as a regular cantor for many local churches.
When applying for the DTS position, Manners spoke of music’s ability to unite a community:
“I believe a community choir brings people together from unique and diverse backgrounds who are enthusiastic about music. I also believe that the music being performed can be enriching not only for the community but also for the performers in the choir. I can recall how the joy of performing large works such as Mendelssohn’s Elijah or Handel’s Messiah would inspire my own musical abilities, but how also being exposed to newer works such as Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living [which DTS performed last spring] or the suite Sing for the Cure can uplift a community.”
As Interim Artistic Director for DTS’s 2023-24 season, Manners will not only lead the traditional Messiah performance but will program the spring concert, which could feature music that, unlike Messiah, is not currently in the chorus members’ repertoire.
“I think this is one of the harder parts of being a choir director, to help the singer realize they have the ability and confidence to perform music that may be slightly above their comfort zone. I am always inspired by singers who rise to this challenge,” Manners said in his application.
After Manners’ appointment was announced, DTS Board Co-President Julie Drozdowski commented: “While the choir will greatly miss being led by someone with the name of Crabb, we are excited at the potential a new conductor and perspective brings. Mr. Manners has already shared new ideas and interpretations with the choir, as well as a potential spring concert piece, and we are looking forward to the future and a fulfilling partnership.”
The Downtown Singers and Orchestra’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, 308 Main St., Johnson City. General admission tickets at $20 are now available at the DTS website, www.downtownsingers.org/tickets; by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 607-205-8741. One free student admission is allowed with each purchase of a ticket.
This project is made possible with public funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and administered by The Earlville Opera House. Additional support for the Broome SCR Program graciously provided by the Stewart W. & Willma C. Hoyt Foundation. Funding is also provided by a project grant from The Ahearn Foundation.