Letter of Commendation to Richard M. Coffey

On Monday, May 19th, 2014, The Greater Hartford Chapter of the American Guild of Organists voted to commend its longtime chapter member, Richard Coffey, for his unique and stellar achievement as founder and, for 40 years, the artis- tic director of Connecticut Choral Artists, known as CONCORA. CONCORA has developed into a nationally recognized professional choral ensemble under Rick’s direction and has regularly garnered much acclaim in the Greater Hartford area and Connecticut for its rendering of sacred and secular choral music. Rick’s accomplishment is of significance to the Greater Hartford Chapter in several ways.

Image 2— Rick is a graduate of the School of Sacred Music, Union Theological Seminary and brought with him skills in playing the organ and conducting from the console. Unlike many choral conductors,
he did not come out of a secular, academic setting with degrees in choral conducting but instead he entered the choral world through the perspective of sitting on an organ bench directing a church music program. During his entire tenure at CONCORA, Rick has maintained his position as organist and minister of music at South Church, New Britain and continues to do so even as he continues to direct the Hartford Chorale.

— Rick established an annual performance of the music of J.S. Bach as part of CONCORA’s performing season and, for many years, included a solo organ piece as part of the program. The music of J.S. Bach is foundational to organists and his promotion of the music of Bach to a wider audience has helped to keep Bach and the organ a viable and valued part of the arts culture of Greater Hartford.

-Rick’s accomplishments have taken him to many places that he might not have gone if he had remained behind the console, including appearances as guest conductor of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra on their Masterworks series. Yet, his resume always touts his church music connections and his service to the American Guild of Organists. He represents us in his appearances and serves as a model of the sacred music profession to a wider audience. Rick’s blend of sacred and secular music has found a comfortable home in a wider secular environment.

-Rick has been very generous in sharing his knowledge, skills, contacts and time with AGO members and as part of AGO conventions and programs during his career here in the Hartford area.

For all of these reasons, the Greater Hartford Chapter of the American Guild of Organists wishes to ex- press its deep gratitude to Richard Coffey, to commend him on his many accomplishments and to wish him well following his retirement from CONCORA.

-A Response from Rick

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Thank you for the Letter of Commendation presented to me at the 2014 Annual Meeting in honor of my forty years of service to CONCORA, founded in 1974 as The South Church Choral Society in the South Church of New Britain. During these four decades, no partnership nor institution has stood as steadfastly by my hopes, goals, and vision as has the American Guild of Organists, including and especially the Hartford Chapter, of which I have been a member since 1972. At both the local, regional, and national levels the A.G.O. has presented CONCORA in concert and has offered me the opportunity to lead seminars, workshops, and master classes. The Letter of Commendation rightly notes that my strong affection and respect for sacred music in the setting of worship has been, and remains, of quintessential importance. My work for South Church and with the Hartford Chorale goes on, and I look forward to many opportunities to be in collaboration with the guild as exciting possibilities continue to present themselves to us.

Best wishes, with deep gratitude,

Richard Coffey

May 24, 2014