Eric J. Milnes' national and international reputation is as a harpsichordist, organist, and conductor in early music, particularly in the period instruments movement.
He was brought up on Long Island, and obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in music at Columbia University and the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Since 1982, he has been the Director of Music at St. John's of Lattingtown, an Episcopal church. Under hisRead more direction, the St. John's Choir has become one of the most highly regarded performing organizations in the New York area, known for upholding a tradition of Anglican church music of all eras. He has played at the Boston Baroque Music Festival, the Connecticut Early Music Festival, the New England Bach Festival, the Passau Festival in Austria, the Santa Fe Festival, the Utrecht Festival, the Bergen (Norway) Festival, the Berkeley Festival, Tanglewood, and the Portland Baroque Festival. He has conducted in Germany, Austria, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, and Poland. He is the director of New York Baroque and the artistic consultant to the New York Collegium and has been the director of Toronto's Musica Divina.
His frequent appearances with the Portland Baroque Orchestra led to the creation of a new ensemble. It was his controversial decision to present Handel's Messiah with 50 voices (Portland had gotten used to the sound of 24 Baroque specialist singers in PBO performances of the masterpiece); that was the first step to the founding of the Trinity Consort. The performance was resoundingly received, not as a return to the Romantic thickness and heaviness that was long associated with Messiah, but as a large-scale choral-orchestral performance with a seemingly genuine Baroque sound. John Strege, director of music for Portland's Trinity Cathedral, heard Milnes' rehearsals. Milnes created a similar experience the next year, with Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Strege asked Milnes to write down the personnel of his "Baroque dream orchestra." Strege then surprised Milnes, by committing to raising the money to assemble this musical dream team, bringing in top players from the early music movement's centers in Europe, the San Francisco area, the Pacific Northwest, and the East Coast. Milnes planned to concentrate on large-scale, usually religious, choral-orchestral works of the Baroque and Classical periods, and thus complement, rather than compete with, the long-established Portland Baroque Orchestra (which is more oriented towards secular instrumental music).
In addition to his conducting, Milnes plays harpsichord and organ as a soloist and is a member of the period instrumental quartet Les Boreades of Montreal. Milnes is active in recording and has appeared on the Dorian, PGM, Newport Classics, Koch International, and Atma labels. He has presented concerts on the American NPR radio network and on several European broadcasting organizations. He has taught at the Juilliard School, Hofstra University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the State Conservatory of Oslo, Norway, and the Bergen Conservatory, Norway. Read less
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