Pulitzer in hand, Adelphi composer earns Grammy nod

Gold, records: The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards are scheduled for Jan. 31. Adelphi University Professor Paul Moravec will be watching.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

They may have to build a bigger trophy case at Adelphi University, where a University Professor (itself a prestigious honor) with a Pulitzer Prize to his credit has composed a work worthy of Grammy Award consideration.

Adelphi University Professor Paul Moravec, a doctor of musical arts and one of only three Adelphi faculty members to carry the esteemed University Professor title, will likely feel the butterflies during the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, especially when the Jan. 31 ceremony names its Best Choral Performance. “Sanctuary Road,” an oratorio composed by Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, is one of five finalists for the Grammy.

More specifically, a performance of “Sanctuary Road” recorded by conductor Kent Tritle, the Oratorio Society Of New York Orchestra and the Oratorio Society Of New York Chorus is up for the award, which goes to the best performance’s conductor, choral director and/or chorus master, and to the choral ensemble itself.

Paul Moravec: Operatic operator.

Moravec and the lyricist Campbell based the oratorio (a large-scale work for orchestra and voice, like Handel’s “Messiah”) on an 1872 book by Underground Railroad organizer William Still. The 70-minute work actually premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2018, but the Grammy-nominated performance, featuring Tritle and a cast of African American soloists, was released by classical-music label Naxos Records in January 2020.

Moravec – who earned a 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his chamber work “Tempest Fantasy,” inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” – offered a practical assessment of the Grammy nod, noting the oratorio now has “a better chance of enjoying a healthy future as it goes out into the world.”

“Further performances of ‘Sanctuary Road’ around the country were already scheduled before the pandemic hit, and they will eventually happen after it ends,” the professor said Thursday. “I am hopeful that these performances and this Grammy recognition will lead to many, many more iterations going forward.”

One of those future iterations is already in the works: Moravec and Campbell are currently composing what Moravec dubbed “an extended, staged, opera version of ‘Sanctuary Road,’” a new take that’s “already promised a premiere when possible,” according to the University Professor.

“I am deeply grateful to Adelphi University for supporting me and my artistic mission over the past 24 years, in every way and on every level,” Moravec added. “Adelphi deserves this Grammy recognition as much as I do.”