In recent years, conductor Chris Shepard has been closely associated with the choral music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He founded the Sydneian Bach Choir and Orchestra in Sydney, Australia, and was music director of BACH 2010, a project to perform all of Bach’s choral cantatas. Under his direction, the ensemble performed over seventy-five cantatas, as well as the two Passions, B Minor Mass, and Christmas Oratorio. A Sydney reviewer wrote of the cantata series that “these well-attended events, using a fine choir and perceptive soloists, are high points in our musical terrain.”
In addition to the music of J.S. Bach, Chris has conducted many staples of the choral-orchestral repertoire, and he has commissioned and premiered a number of new choral works in both Australia and America. Chris serves as Music Director of two of America’s most venerable choral ensembles: the Worcester Chorus in Worcester, Massachusetts; and the Dessoff Choirs in New York City. With the Dessoff Choirs, Chris has prepared the choir for performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Radio City Music Hall, including a performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe with the Juilliard Orchestra under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Since returning to America, Chris has also been a guest conductor at Emmanuel Church in Boston, a church renowned for its three-decade Bach cantata project. He currently serves as Music Director of St John’s Episcopal Church in Stamford, CT. Chris has conducted avocational choirs for more than two decades, including the Stamford MasterSingers, Greater Middletown Chorale and Waterbury Chorale in Connecticut.
A committed music educator, Chris is serving as Interim Choral Director at the College of the Holy Cross for the 2011-12 school year. Teaching has long been a focus of his career; from 1996 to 2008, he served as Director of Music at Sydney Grammar School, one of Australia’s most prominent high schools, and before moving to Sydney, Chris led the choral program at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, where his Collegium Musicum appeared at the 1994 ACDA Eastern Division convention. The Litchfield County Children’s Choir, which he founded in 1990, continues to thrive after nearly two decades. Since 2004, Chris has been Music Director of the Hotchkiss Summer Portals Chamber Music Program, an intensive chamber music program for advanced young players and singers from around the world. He conducts the chamber orchestra and choir, serving on the faculty alongside such guest ensembles as the Shanghai Quartet, the Brentano String Quartet and Cantus. Over the last two decades, Chris has given several presentations for the American Choral Directors’ Association and has conducted several high school regional festival choirs in New England.
With SBS-TV, an Australian national public television network, Chris presented two documentaries: Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and From Mozart to Morrison with eminent Australian jazz musician James Morrison. The Melbourne Age recommended the Mozart documentary as a “novel, thoughtfully produced hour”. In 2000, Chris was chorusmaster with the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs for their performance in the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Throughout his years in Sydney, Chris worked with a wide range of school and community choirs as conductor and clinician. He recently appeared with Alice Parker as a judge for Together in Song, a choral festival broadcast live on western Massachusetts public television.
Chris holds degrees from the Hartt School and the Yale School of Music, where he studied choral conducting with Marguerite Brooks. He is currently completing his PhD in Musicology at the University of Sydney, researching the performance history of Bach’s B Minor Mass in 20th century America.