ADVERTISEMENT

The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus is striving for harmony after a discordant six months.

The lawsuit against the chorus that was filed in March by former director Doreen Rao has been settled, court documents indicate.

And the search for her successor is moving forward, the chorus board said.

Board members disclosed that out of 30 candidates from around the world, three have been selected for top consideration. Audiences will be able to see them in action this season.

Two of the three leading candidates are from this area. They are Gerald Gray, a tenor soloist, voice professor and director of choral activities at Fredonia State College; and Roland E. Martin, who serves on the music faculty at Buffalo Seminary, Canisius College and the University at Buffalo, and is organist and music director at St. Joseph University Church. Martin has been serving as the Philharmonic Chorus' interim director.

The third candidate is Erin Freeman, assistant conductor of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the Richmond Symphony Chorus.

Rao's dismissal in January made waves in the local music community because of its suddenness, because of the board's vagueness on its reasons for the move, and because of Rao's prominence in the choral music world.

In her lawsuit, filed in March, Rao claimed she had been defamed by Steven Bench, then-president of the chorus' board, and Andrea Copley, then the board's vice president. The suit alleged that Bench told a gathering that Rao's "loyalty" and her threat of "starting another chorus" were the reasons for not renewing her contract.

Rao could not be reached to comment. She currently resides in her hometown, Chicago, where she began her career. She is active in Chicago's music community.

Her lawyer, Andrew Fleming, declined to disclose the details of the settlement.

"The parties are mutually satisfied with the settlement. That's about all I can say," Fleming said.

Whatever the amount, the settlement appears to end any speculation about whether differences could be patched up, with Rao returning to Buffalo.

"Obviously they have announced their intention to move on," said Patrick Barrett, who was one of the leaders of the Take Back Our Chorus Committee, a group of chorus singers who had advocated for Rao's reinstatement.

The three candidates being considered to succeed Rao are all scheduled to step into the spotlight during the 2012-13 season. Martin conducts the 75th Anniversary Celebration on Oct. 21 in Kleinhans Music Hall. Gray is slated to conduct the Christmas "Messiah" on Dec. 2 in Our Lady of Victory Basilica. Freeman will conduct the chorus' first Easter "Messiah" on March 10, 2013 in Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church.

The concerts will include receptions where the audience can meet the candidate and members of the chorus.

"We wanted an opportunity to get to know them better, have them get to know us better," said Holly Grant, the chorus' vice president and marketing chairwoman.

In addition to their own concert series, the chorus is scheduled for nine other concerts in the BPO's 2012-13 season.

The chorus is seeking new singers. Auditions will be held Sept. 6 and 7. For information on auditions and upcoming concerts, visit www.BPChorus.org.

email: mkunz@buffnews.com