By Barb Van Atta
Alan C. Crabb, Artistic Director and co-founder of the Binghamton Downtown Singers, died Saturday morning (Sept. 15) at University of Philadelphia Hospital, of multiple complications following heart surgery. He was 70. Funeral arrangements are pending at Barber Memorial Home in Johnson City.
A gifted singer, he was well-known in both local and national music circles. As a conductor, he was commended for his ability to inspire the musicians under his baton to the highest levels of musical excellence.
Crabb, a graduate of the Crane School of Music (SUNY-Potsdam), appeared with many of the major orchestras of North America, including those of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, St. Louis, Denver, Seattle, San Antonio, New Jersey, and Vancouver, Canada, as well as in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In addition to his symphonic and oratoria work, he was, for many years, a well-regarded operatic tenor, performing locally with Tri-Cities Opera and also with the Syracuse, Pittsburgh and other companies. His affiliation with Tri-Cities Opera began in the late 1960s as chorus master, and, during the 1970s, he sang leading roles from lyric (Rodolfo in La Boheme) to heroic (Manrico in Il Trovatore).
He taught voice at Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University and Broome Community College, and was a guest lecturer with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. A vocal and choral teacher in Broome County for many years, he also served as a choir director at local churches.
In 2004, he received a bronze star on the City of Binghamton’s “Sidewalk of the Stars.”
For many people in the community, Crabb will be remembered for leading the Binghamton Downtown Singers since the group’s inception in 1983. More than 350 singers have participated with the group over the years, enjoying an opportunity to perform great choral masterworks with a full orchestra. Many of these singers began their association with Crabb as high school students when he was a music teacher at Johnson City High School.
Downtown Singers concerts have been made available to the community at minimum or no cost in order to broaden the audience for great music. The annual December performance of Handel’s Messiah has become a holiday tradition for listeners as well as performers and will continue this year.
Among Crabb’s survivors are his wife, Marisa Reynolds-Crabb, and three sons, Colin, Morgan and Alexander.
One of Crabb’s most enduring professional and personal relationships was with retired TCO Artistic Director Duane Skrabalak, who offered this remembrance:
“1965 was my senior year at Johnson City High School. It was also Alan Crabb’s first year as the music/vocal teacher. When he arrived, he spent the first weeks demonstrating such enthusiasm — borderline mania — about his subject. We found him engaging and, frankly, NUTS, but it was is was a fun nuts. He was a dynamo who often changed directions or focus in a split second, but always came around to some kind of order in his classes and choruses.
“Christmas concerts left the realm of Adeste Fideles in unison, to Messiah. His Select Choir, of which I was member, learned scores of 16th century madrigals in Olde English and Italian. His music appreciation course covered every from Gesualdo and Monteverdi to Beethoven and Stockhausen, and we all were ‘digging’ it and learning to love it.
“Suffice it to say that, had I never met Alan Crabb, I would not be doing what I am now, and what I have done for the past 40 some odd years. He opened ears AND eyes. He got me involved in the Tri-Cities Opera (he was studying and performing with TCO at that time),” said Skrabalak, who succeeded Crabb as chorus master.
“Once Alan put the bug in your ear, you were hooked. I was — I still am — and pray that I can continue planting those bugs. Alan, I owe you!”
If you have similar remembrances (or just wish to express your feelings and /or condolences), please do so here.