There’s a mournful tune playing this week in the Capital Region’s musical community. David Griggs-Janower, who died Sunday from complications of a stroke, was the face of choral music in the region for decades.
"He really was, I think, one of the finest choral conductors anywhere in the United States and one with a really major national reputation," said Albany Symphony Orchestra conductor David Alan Miller, who frequently collaborated with Griggs-Janower. Miller remembers him as a consummate musician.
"His style was pretty low key because he was such a gentle, patient, decent human being," Miller said. "He wasn't one of those tempestuous guys who would throw his baton and scream and yell. He got incredible results from Pro Musica."
Griggs-Janower started Albany Pro Musica 32 years ago and shaped it into a high-profile choral ensemble that performs around the region and the world. Times Union editor Rex Smith has been a member of Pro Musica for 14 years. Smith says the loss is devastating.
"It's a great loss to the Capital Region music scene and to many of us personally. But we are guided and transformed by David, and will always have that as our memory of him and as that changing force in all of our lives."
Griggs-Janower was also a venerated music professor at the University at Albany, leading the University Chamber Singers and acting as mentor to many students pursuing music.
Griggs-Janower’s impressive repertoire doesn’t end there. He also served as music director of the Berkshire Bach Society, choir director at First Presbyterian Church of Albany and as guest conductor for a variety of other musical ensembles in the region. He has been honored with numerous awards, including Outstanding Conductor of the Year by the New York State American Choral Directors Association.
Griggs-Janower was born in Long Island, graduated from Cornell and earned a doctorate in conducting from Indiana University. He was 60 and had been in poor health since the stroke in March.