Bienen professor Donald Nally receives his sixth Grammy nomination in five years


Photo credit Becky Oehlers Photography

Bienen Prof. Donald Nally conducting. Nally was recently received his sixth Grammy nomination in five years.

Haley Fuller, Development and Recruitment Editor

Bienen Prof. Donald Nally has been nominated for a Grammy six times in five years, and has won the award twice. It’s a running joke among his choir that he’s never been at the ceremony.

This year will be no exception. His choir, The Crossing, received the Best Choral Performance nomination for their recording of “Carthage.” Nally directs the Philadelphia-based group, a chamber choir that performs new music focused on addressing social, political and environmental issues.

The 53-minute album was recorded in July 2019 and released last May. Three of the pieces on the album, “Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus,” “Spiralling Ecstatically” and the titular track were written just for the choir by James Primosch, who has worked with the group extensively.

“This music is very challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding music, because it has so many layers and textures,” Nally said.

In addition to “Carthage,” the group released two other full-length albums during the pandemic, one of which made The New York Times list of the year’s best classical albums.

James Reese (Bienen ‘15), a member of the choir and the board of directors, said he has worked with The Crossing since 2013 and has enjoyed being a part of “the Grammy rush.”

“My perennial take on the Grammys is that the Grammys are not the reason why The Crossing does what it does,” Reese said. “It’s just a nice thing to have that sense of recognition, because I really do believe in the mission of The Crossing.“

Outside of The Crossing, Nally is the director of choral organizations for Bienen and teaches graduate students. Although it’s a lot of work to juggle his responsibilities at Northwestern and The Crossing, he said the two jobs complement each other.

At The Crossing, Nally develops projects and thinks about the group’s role in the world, skills he said also apply to his work at Northwestern. Conversely, at Northwestern, Nally evaluates himself as an artist—something he carries on to The Crossing.

“I feel like there’s a real symbiotic relationship there in my life regarding The Crossing and Northwestern,” Nally said.

Many of Nally’s former students have ended up working with The Crossing, including Reese and Kevin Vondrak (Bienen M.M. ‘17), The Crossing’s assistant conductor and artistic associate. While Vondrak’s relationship with Nally has changed over the years, he said he is grateful for Nally’s influence and guidance from being his student to his coworker.

“I’m just grateful that Donald’s in my life. He’s one of those people that has had a great impact on my life, and I see it in the people in The Crossing’s community as well,” Vondrak said. “I think that that’s reflected in the attention that The Crossing has received.”

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