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English Section

Polish-US conductor Joseph Herter laid to rest in Warsaw

14.01.2020 11:21
Funeral ceremonies were held at St John’s Cathedral in Warsaw on Monday for the prominent conductor Joseph Herter, who died in Warsaw on December 12.
Joseph Herter
Joseph Herter Photo: Cantores Minores Choral Association

A requiem mass was preceded by a musical tribute to him – a concert given by his friends, members of the Warsaw Trombone Quartet and the Cantores Minores Choir, which he founded in 1990. 

Members of the orchestra of the Teatr Rozrywki in Chorzów, southern Poland, with which Herter worked closely as a conductor for many years, performed excerpts from the Variations et Fugue Quartet by Zygmunt Stojowski, a Polish composer who spent the best part of his life in the United States and whose career was the subject of extensive research and a book by Joseph Herter.

Placed in front of the main altar, next to the urn with the conductor’s ashes, were the Polish and American flags and a page from the score of Stojowski’s composition A Prayer for Poland.

Joseph Herter’s nephew, baritone Gregory Moore, sang a fragment of Gabriel Faure’s Requiem during the service.

The burial ceremony was held at Warsaw’s Powązki Cemetery, with the Cantores Minores singing, among others, "Amazing Grace" and "Swing low, sweet chariot."

Born in Detroit into a family of Polish immigrants, Joseph Herter graduated from the School of Music at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and continued his studies in conducting with, among others, Seiji Ozawa and Kurt Masur. 

Having settled in Poland at the age of 29, he initially worked as Director of Music at the American School of Warsaw, subsequently developing a career as guest conductor with the Polish National Opera in Warsaw and numerous symphony orchestras.

He gave first performances of works by Polish composers such as Witold Lutosławski, Andrzej Panufnik, Krzesimir Dębski, Piotr Moss and Jacek Grudzień.

He conducted a host of productions including Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story, Cabaret and Man of La Mancha at the Teatr Rozrywki in Chorzów.

He toured across Europe and the United States with the Cantores Minores Choir of St John’s Cathedral in Warsaw.

Herter’s honours included the Silver Cross of Merit awarded by the Polish president, and the Bronze ‘Gloria Artis’ Medal of Cultural Merit from the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage.

In an obituary of Joseph Herter, Marek Żebrowski of the Polish Music Center in Los Angeles wrote: “Joe Herter loved Poland and felt Polish. After a few years he largely mastered his ancestors’ language and found his own place in the adopted homeland. He also enjoyed Polish cuisine, being especially partial to cakes, ice cream and sweets of any kind.”