Maestro Paul Mueller to Retire
Paul Mueller is the rare and wonderful amalgamation of music conductor, vocal coach, cheerleader, counselor, comedian, recruiter, pastor, brother, friend and…drill sergeant.
– Eddie Pleasant, soloist
Maestro Paul F. Mueller will retire from GCS in April after 27 years as musical director; Dvorak’s Stabat Mater will be his last concert with us.
Those who have worked most closely with Paul use only superlatives. Past GCS Chair Betsy Lawrence called him “a polymath whose broad and deep musical talent, knowledge and experience...combined with the patience of a saint...blessed us and our community for 27 years. There was not an unhappy moment singing under his baton.”
Marta Boratgis, an oboist who has worked with Paul to hire the orchestras for our concerts, echoed Betsy’s praise: “Paul Mueller is one of the finest musicians and human beings I've had the pleasure of collaborating with. The respect he shows to both the choir and instrumentalists illustrates that it is possible to guide and correct without making one feel unsteady.” She goes on to say how “gratified and proud [the musicians] feel working with Paul Mueller.”
Over those years, Paul has conducted us in roughly 100 concerts in Fairfield County, Bulgaria, Greece, France, Austria, Italy . . . the list goes on. While he is certainly fond of German music, he has constantly stretched us and himself with opera choruses; with gospel, Latin American, and big band music . . . that list goes on as well. Under Paul’s leadership, GCS has collaborated with the Greenwich and Stamford Symphonies, European orchestras, regional and youth choruses, to name just a few! He has taught us how to how to pronounce Hebrew and land confidently on an impossible note. Past Chair Priscilla Wilder put it succinctly: “Paul would demonstrate and sing the soprano part so beautifully in falsetto that we sopranos wished he could sing with us.”
There have been no limits to Paul’s energy. For several years, he drove from Washington Heights in Manhattan to New Haven each Monday to direct the New Haven Chorale; each Tuesday he then drove to Greenwich to direct GCS. Both were in addition to his duties as professor (and sometimes Music Department chair) at Hunter College in mid-Manhattan, not to mention organist “at a little Lutheran Church in Washington Heights where there was nothing but joy for 15 years.” He kept GCS alive and together through the harrowing first two years of COVID.
Most importantly, Paul has touched the lives of hundreds of choristers, some for only a year, the luckiest of us for all 27. We have marveled at his musical integrity, his professionalism. A consummate teacher, he knows how to pace a rehearsal, working us hard, then stopping to tell an anecdote about his cats or life in Manhattan, cooking or travel, bicycling or kayaking. He is as good a raconteur as he is a conductor. He makes rehearsing joyful work.
It can seem greedy to begrudge Paul his retirement, his house in Maine, his flying off serendipitously with his wife Jamee to Vienna to hear the Philharmonic. We have had him for 27 years, for God’s sake! Isn’t that blessed enough?
But con animo, in four-part harmony, we wish him the best in the next chapter of his life.