434 performers on stage after a performance of Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand
Performers from the May Festival Chorus, Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, May Festival Youth Chorus, Cincinnati Boychoir, Cincinnati Youth Choir and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra rise for a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd following Mahler’s "Symphony of a Thousand," the culmination of the May Festival’s 150th anniversary season. Two BGSU College of Musical Arts alumni were among the 434 performers. (Photo credit/JP Leong)

BGSU College of Musical Arts alumni reunite on stage for first time in two decades to perform ‘Symphony of a Thousand’

Adam Landry ‘08 and Christopher Kanney ‘08 performed at the famed Cincinnati May Festival

By Laren Kowalczyk '07

Two Bowling Green State University alumni recently reunited to perform one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire as members of two of the top professionally-trained choruses in the United States.

Adam Landry ‘08 and Christopher Kanney ‘08, graduates of the BGSU College of Musical Arts with degrees in music education, sang in Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, "Symphony of a Thousand," at the Cincinnati May Festival, the longest-running choral festival in the Western Hemisphere.

Landry and Kanney’s shared passion for playing the trombone led them to a BGSU summer music camp as high schoolers, where they became fast friends and developed a relationship that has spanned college, careers and led to them reuniting on stage for the first time in nearly 20 years.

“It’s really exciting,” Landry said. “Our relationship goes back two decades. It was special to not only perform this influential piece but to do so alongside my lifelong friend.”

Dean of the College of Musical Arts Dr. Bill Mathis, an ardent supporter of his current and former students, attended the performance at the historic Cincinnati Music Hall on May 27 — the culmination of a two-week celebration of the May Festival’s 150th anniversary season.

"It has been a longtime dream of mine to hear and see Mahler's Symphony No. 8 live, performed by a professional orchestra and chorus," Mathis said. "To attend this extraordinary concert with two of my former students in the chorus, who have distinguished themselves as stellar music teachers and performing musicians, was a wonderful bonus. Chris and Adam are seasoned professionals and now respected colleagues. The performance was spectacular."

Two BGSU alumni pose with their former trombone professor at the Cincinnati May Festival.
Adam Landry, Dr. Bill Mathis and Christopher Kanney gather for a photo following the May Festival performance of Mahler’s "Symphony of a Thousand."(Photo credit/Felecia Kanney)

Teaching careers

Landry and Kanney began their careers as band directors after graduating from BGSU in 2008.

Landry taught band for two years at Bowling Green City Schools and then became the middle and high school choir director. While there, he had the unique opportunity to teach Mathis’ children.

“The Mathis family is really special to me,” Landry said. “I met Bill when I was a very shy freshman in high school, taking trombone lessons from him. Bill is very supportive, and it means a lot that he has continued supporting Chris and me long after we left BGSU.”

Landry has been the high school choir director at Mentor Public Schools, east of Cleveland, since 2014.

BGSU alumnus Christopher Kanney singing in a symphony performance
Bass Christopher Kanney of the May Festival Chorus sings in the combined chorus for Mahler’s "Symphony of a Thousand" at Cincinnati Music Hall. (Photo credit/Mark Lyons)

Kanney joined Springboro High School near Dayton as the assistant choir director and accompanist in 2022 after spending 13 years as a band director at Tiffin (Ohio) City Schools.

Kanney said the opportunities at BGSU to participate in numerous ensembles and choruses prepared him for a successful career in music education.

“There were so many extracurricular musical groups to participate in,” he said. “I did everything I could to soak it all in while I was at BGSU, and I’ve been able to draw upon those experiences every step of the way, whether I was teaching band or choir."

Becoming choristers 

Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 is called "Symphony of a Thousand" due to the number of instrumental and vocal performers required for the spectacular piece.

The BGSU pair were among 434 musicians who performed the symphony as the grand finale event of the festival.

 BGSU alumnus Adam Landry singing in a symphony performance
Tenor Adam Landry of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus sings in the combined chorus for Mahler’s "Symphony of a Thousand" at Cincinnati Music Hall. (Photo credit/JP Leong)

Landry has been a member of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus since 2017. Through his involvement in the chorus, he’s performed twice at Carnegie Hall in New York City and also traveled to Miami, in addition to regular performances at Severance Music Center in Cleveland.

To prepare for the May Festival performance, Landry said he spent considerable time outside of rehearsals with the score, which is in German and Latin. He listened to the piece frequently and played it on the piano.

“As a member of this elite chorus, you have to be accountable and prepared,” Landry said. “Due to the complexity of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, it’s not performed very frequently. The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus has probably only performed it three times in the last 20 or 30 years. It’s an incredibly monumental piece.”

Kanney joined the May Festival Chorus last August, a few months after moving to Cincinnati. In addition to performing at the festival, the May Festival Chorus frequently performs for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops.

Kanney said it’s the first professional chorus he’s participated in since college.

“It’s musically rewarding to be part of a highly skilled group again,” Kanney said. “I had the privilege to perform with top ensembles as a student at BGSU, and I am thrilled to have been selected for the May Festival Chorus. It's been an honor to sing music of this caliber, and performing Symphony No. 8 was a highlight of the season.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 06/01/2023 03:21PM