About our Music Director
Phillip Cheah, Music Director. Conductor, vocalist, pianist, and teacher Phillip Cheah is the Music Director of the Central City Chorus and of Guildsingers, a medieval music consort of voices. He is a member of the professional choir at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields and the Bach Choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, as well as a staff accompanist at The Brearley School.
Known for cultivating a “warm tone and carefully calibrated blend” (New York Times) from his choirs, Mr. Cheah maintains a busy conducting schedule. He has conducted Amuse, Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble, the Handel Society of Dartmouth, the Indiana University Opera Theatre, the Pocket Opera Players of Chicago, and the Amato Opera, where he was also a répétiteur. In 2005, he won wonderful acclaim as music director of The Forest by Zeke Hecker, the first work commissioned by the Amato Opera in its 63-year history. He has accompanied various solo recitals as well as concerts with the Aguavá New Music Studio, the Millennium Wagner Opera Company, and the Opera Collective of New York. Equally at home with musical theatre, he was the music director for The Fantasticks and Little Shop of Horrors with Bloomington Music Works in 2002, and Working with the Dwight-Englewood School in 2003. He also served as the vocal coach for the Putney School’s 2003 production of Ragtime.
With the New York Choral Artists and the Concert Chorale of New York, Mr. Cheah has sung under the batons of Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Muti, Kurt Masur, Martin Hasselböck, Bernard Labadie, Stephen Layton, and Esa-Pekka Salonen, with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, and the Singapore Youth Symphony, and he has shared the stage in performances with Barbara Bonney, Thomas Quasthoff, Olympia Dukakis, and Angela Brown. He has also sung with various professional choirs from the metropolitan New York area, including the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, Trinity Wall Street, St. Bartholomew’s Church, Temple Emanu-El, Vox Vocal Ensemble, Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, and Ensemble in Flore of Vassar College.
A tireless champion of contemporary music, Mr. Cheah has performed works by Frank Oteri, Joe Manieri, John Eaton, David Lang, Milton Babbitt, Henry Cowell, Nicholas Slonimsky, James MacMillan, and Egil Hovland. He sang Ralph Shapey’s Praise in 2002 as part of the University of Chicago’s celebration of the late composer’s 80th birthday, as well as the U.S. premières of John Tavener’s monumental all-night vigil, The Veil of the Temple, at Lincoln Centre in 2004, and Paul McCartney’s Ecce Cor Meum at Carnegie Hall in 2006. The song cycle, Winter Birds, by Jonathan David, and the chamber cantata, The Hour of Lead, by Patrick Castillo, were written for and premiered by Mr. Cheah, the latter work especially highlighting his unusually large vocal range—a span of almost three-and-a-half octaves. In 2005, he co-founded C4 Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, a New York-based ensemble dedicated solely to the performance and promotion of the music written in the last quarter-century. He was also actively involved with the ComplineNYC project, a musical effort to bring to New York City a public offering of meditation through Gregorian chant. He has recorded on the Pro Organo and Tzadik labels.
Mr. Cheah regularly collaborates with pianist Trudy Chan in a series of unique programs showcasing a vocal range that “defies the laws of nature” (Time Out New York) with repertory highlighting composers from a single nationality or region. He has given recitals on the concert series at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, and was a featured artist on the renowned Schizoid Music Series at Cornelia Street Café. A guest lecturer at the Manhattan School of Music and Barnard College, Mr. Cheah has held teaching appointments at the Putney School and Cathedral High School where he was the Director of Music. He has been the personal assistant to the composer/satirist Peter Schickele, and was most recently the Music Promotions Manager at Oxford University Press until the dissolution of the New York office in 2010. Mr. Cheah holds both a B.S. and an M.M. degree from Indiana University, where he studied piano, conducting, and opera coaching with Jan Harrington, Thomas Dunn, Carmen Téllez, John Poole, Reiki Shigeoka-Neriki, and Christopher Harding.
Brian Hamer, Assistant Director Brian Hamer begins his ninth season as Assistant Conductor of the Central City Chorus. He is a graduate of Concordia College, Ann Arbor (B.A. ’91), Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana (M.Div. ’95), and The University of South Florida (M.Mus. ’02). His publication honors include manuscripts in Choral Journal, Cross Accent, Logia, The Bride Of Christ, Concordia Pulpit Resources, Modern Reformation, and Gottesdienst. He has served as a pre-concert lecturer for the Florida Orchestra and has participated in choral workshops and performances with Helmuth Rilling and Robert Shaw. He is a contributing editor to the hymnal, Lutheran Service Book (Concordia 2006), the book, From Bach To Britten: Reflections of a Conductor (Scarecrow Press 2007) by Robert Summer, and Encyclopedia Of Christian Civilization (Blackwell 2008). In addition to serving as the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bayside, Queens, Mr. Hamer is the music director for Higher Things, an annual gathering of Lutheran high school musicians, and Director of General Music Activities at The Lutheran School of Flushing and Bayside.
Miles Fellenberg, Accompanist. Pianist Miles Fellenberg has been praised by audiences and critics alike for his intellectual and passionate performances. He has been an invited soloist, collaborative pianist, conductor, and educator throughout the United States and abroad. He is currently on the faculty at the Brooklyn Center for the Musical Arts and has directed the piano program at the Rappahannock Summer Music Camp in Virginia the past four years. He was a staff pianist at the Castleman Quartet Program and the New York Summer Music Festival. This past summer he was one of eight collaborative fellows at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA. A major supporter of new music, Fellenberg was a member of the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble for three years and recently performed in this past season’s “Focus!” festival at The Juilliard School, which celebrated the life and music of John Cage. Fellenberg has studied at the Manhattan School of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory, and is currently a Master of Music candidate at The Juilliard School, where he studies with Jonathan Feldman and Margo Garrett as a recipient of the David Garvey Scholarship.