In 1988, Alan Harler was named artistic director of Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, only the twelfth person to hold that position since the chorus’s founding in 1874. Maestro Harler also served as Laura H. Carnell Professor and Chairman of Choral Music at Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music.
Alan Harler is a strong advocate for new American music. He was founder and director of the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble of Indiana. During his tenure with Mendelssohn Club, he has commissioned over 55 new compositions, including David Lang’s battle hymns (2009), Jennifer Higdon’s On the Death of the Righteous, and Pauline Oliveros’s Urban Echo: Circle Told (2008) in his 20th anniversary season. Other major commissions are Robert Moran’s Requiem: Chant du Cygne (1990), Charles Fussell’s Specimen Days (1992), Robert Stern’s Returning the Song (1994), Cynthia Folio’s Touch the Angel’s Hand (1994), James Primosch’s Fire Memory/ River Memory (1998), Charles Fussell’s High Bridge (2003), and Andrea Clearfield’s The Golem Psalms (2006). Maestro Harler conducted Mendelssohn Club in a critically acclaimed recording of the Moran Requiem for Argo/London Records in 1994. As conductor of the Temple University Concert Choir, he has presented many Philadelphia premieres, including Moran’sHagoromo, Alfred Schnittke’s Requiem, and Arvo Pärt’s Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Joannem.
An exceptional conductor with a global reach
Alan Harler is an active conductor outside of Philadelphia, having performed regularly at the Festival Casals in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Aspen Choral Institute, and has given master classes and conducted performances in Taiwan and China under the sponsorship of the Taiwan Philharmonic Association.
He has prepared choruses for many of the country’s leading orchestras and conductors including Ricardo Muti, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Klaus Tennstedt, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, David Roberstson and Max Rudolph.
Harler counts the teaching experience as one of the most important creative elements of his work. “One of the strongest characteristics of a good conductor is the ability to teach. You teach as you conduct. I’m really a teacher at heart,” he says.
Harler has led many master classes in conducting, and currently serves as one of five Conducting Mentors with the Conductors Guild, making himself available for consultation with young conductors internationally. At Mendelssohn Club, he works with a young conductor apprentice each year through our apprenticeship program.
- Maestro Harler’s provocative programming vision was recognized in 2013 and 2009 by Chorus America with the ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award and the Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art.
- Harler was also honored in 2009 by the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia with an Honorary Lifetime Membership for Distinguished Contribution to Musical Life of Philadelphia.
- In December 2007, Harler conducted the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a performance of Handel’s Messiah — an honor typically offered to music directors of orchestras.
- In August 2007, Harler received the Elaine Brown Award for Life-long Service to Choral Music, given by the Pennsylvania Division of the American Choral Director’s Association.
- In April 2005, Harler was honored with Temple University’s Creative Achievement Award for 2005
- In 1995, Harler was elected to the Board of Chorus America, the national professional association of professional and volunteer choruses.