Sunday, January 21, 2018
Stage

Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

TAMPA — The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay has ended its relationship with visiting artistic director Doreen Rao. The announcement on Tuesday continues an ongoing uncertainty about leadership for the chorale, which has not had a permanent artistic director since 2016.

Beth Gibbs, the chorale’s assistant conductor, will prepare the chorale through the season’s final concert, Celebrate Broadway, April 27-29. Meanwhile, the chorale’s statement hinted that the search for a permanent director could be nearing an end.

"We thank Dr. Rao for the dedication, passion and enthusiasm she has given the Master Chorale," board chairman Robert Hicks said in a prepared statement. The statement did not give a reason why Rao has left.

The chorale is best known for its ongoing partnership with the Florida Orchestra. After the March 2016 departure of artistic director James Bass, the chorale and the orchestra attempted a novel solution — to find someone who could conduct both the chorale and occasionally relieve Michael Francis, the orchestra’s guest conductor.

The chorale used guest conductors through the 2016-2017 season, after which both organizations gave up the idea of finding a hybrid replacement. Hiring Rao for an entire season was seen as a temporary solution to the second-longest leadership drought in the chorale’s 39-year history.

"Over the next few weeks, we will be concluding an international search for our new artistic director," the chorale’s statement said.

During her tenure, Rao prepared the chorale for the Carmina Burana, the orchestra’s season opener, as well as concerts in public schools and ensemble singers for the Morning Star concert broadcast on Classical WSMR-FM 89.1 and 103.9.

"It is unfortunate that it hasn’t worked out," chorale managing director Kara Dwyer wrote in an email to the Times. "Dr. Rao is a wonderful musician, and we wish her the best in every possible way."

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

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