Obituary of William Ferrisby John Vorrasi
William Ferris was a lifelong champion of contemporary composers,. He and the William Ferris Chorale, which he founded with tenor John Vorrasi, have been acclaimed for their concerts of music by Dominick Argento, Samuel Barber, John Corigliano, William Mathias, John McCabe, Gian Carlo Menotti, Steven Paulus, Vincent Persichetti, Ned Rorem, William Schuman, Leo Sowerby, William Walton, and many others, often with the composers as honored guests. Under his direction, the Chorale has performed at the Aldeburgh Festival and the Spoleto Festival: USA and given more than 160 world, American, and Chicago premières of important new literature.
A renowned composer in his own right, Mr. Ferris’s music was commissioned and premièred by the Chicago and the Boston Symphony Orchestras. Among his compositions are two operas, numerous concerti, symphonic and chamber works, hundreds of choral works, and dozens of songs. Northwestern University houses his complete musical archive.
A man of devout faith, he worked for the Church from his early youth, holding positions as organist/music director and composer-in-residence at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester, New York, and, most notably at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Chicago. It was his profound belief that music for the liturgy should be of the highest quality, and his work is a shining example of that principle.
Mr. Ferris’s sudden death on May 16, 2000, while conducting a rehearsal of the Verdi Requiem, shocked the music community. His was a unique and distinctive voice on the American music scene.