Artistic Leadership

Carlos Kalmar, Artistic Director & Principal Conductor

Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar

Carlos Kalmar has been Principal Conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival since 2000, and was named Artistic Director in 2011. Under Kalmar’s leadership, the Grant Park Music Festival has become one of the world’s preeminent classical music festivals, and his role has been essential in shaping its artistic vision.

In addition to serving as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival, Carlos Kalmar brings with him a wide breadth of musical expertise as he enters his 14th year as Music Director of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra.

In May 2011 Kalmar made his highly acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, noted by New York critic Alex Ross as “one of the most gripping events of the current season”. The concert entitled “Music for a Time of War” with works by Ives, Adams, Britten and Vaughan Williams was subsequently released by Pentatone and was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Orchestral Performance”. He is a regular guest conductor of the Baltimore and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras and has recently conducted subscription concerts with the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, Seattle Symphony and Minnesota Orchestras. In the Far East he has conducted both the NHK and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestras as well as the Singapore Symphony and Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestras.

Until 2016 Kalmar also held the position of Music Director of the RTVE Madrid. He has conducted extensively in Europe with notable orchestras including the City of Birmingham Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Czech Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, Berlin Radio Symphony, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Orchestra della Toscana, Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, and Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestras.

Kalmar is highly regarded for his work with singers and has conducted at the Hamburg State Opera, Vienna State Opera (Magic Flute, Cosí fan tutte), Zurich Opera House (Figaro, Die Entführung) and National Opera of Brussels (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) in addition to productions at the Vienna Volksoper (Contes d’Hoffmann), Frankfurt (Die Fledermaus), Weimar (Rigoletto), and the Aix en Provence and Carinthischer Sommer Festivals. He regularly programmes opera in concert and oratorio with his orchestras in Oregon and Chicago.

Pentatone followed the 2012 release of “Music for a Time of War” with a recording entitled “This England” featuring Vaughan Williams Symphony No 5, Britten Four Sea Interludes and Elgar Cockaigne Overture. Kalmar’s most recent release, “Spirit of the American Range” features works by Walter Piston, George Antheil and Copland Symphony No 3 and also nominated for Grammy Award for “Best Orchestral Performance. On Warner Classics he released a recording of orchestral works by Lalo with the RTVE Orchestra in Madrid whilst for Hyperion he recorded cello concertos by Dohnanyi, Enescu and D’Albert with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. His recordings for Cedille records include a CD of American Orchestral works, repertoire by Szymanowski, Martinu and Bartok and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra he recorded works by Joachim and Brahms.

Born in Uruguay to Austrian parents, Carlos Kalmar studied conducting with Karl Österreicher at the College for Music in Vienna and in 1984 won First Prize at the Hans Swarowsky Conducting Competition. He has previously served as Music Director with the RTVE Madrid, Stuttgart Philharmonic, Anhaltisches Theater and Philharmonic Orchestra in Dessau and the Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstlerorchester in Vienna.

Christopher Bell, Chorus Director

Christopher Bell, Chorus Director

Christopher Bell has served as Chorus Director of the Grant Park Chorus since 2002.  Bell oversees a chorus of more than 100 singers, along with the Project Inclusion Vocal Fellows, a unique program designed to encourage singers under-represented in the field. Bell prepares all of the Festival’s choral programs, and conducts the orchestra and chorus for several concerts. 

During his tenure, he and the chorus have been recipients of the coveted Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence given by Chorus America, as well as glowing reviews from both critics and audiences alike. In 2013, Bell won the Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art. 

In a career spanning thirty years thus far, Christopher has been chorusmaster of the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union (1987 – 1990), Chorus Master of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus (1989–2002) the Belfast Philharmonic Choir (2005 – 2011) the Edinburgh Festival Chorus (2007 – 2018) and the Washington Chorus (2017–2020).

Largely responsible for the formation of the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCOS) in 1996, he has been its Artistic Director ever since. The National Youth Choir of Scotland has toured to Sweden, Ireland, Chicago, Hungary, Germany and Central Europe, has won a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award, and performed at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival to great acclaim. NYCOS organisation has expanded to has expanded over 25 years to include fifteen regional choirs, three national choirs and an extensive education and publishing arm. 

Bell was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the Royal Conservatoire in Scotland in 2012, in recognition of his contribution to performing arts in Scotland. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music from the University of Aberdeen. 

Born in Belfast, Bell was educated at Edinburgh University and held his first post as Associate Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony. Since then, he has worked with many of the major orchestras in the UK and Ireland, including the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National, BBC Scottish Symphony, Ulster Orchestra, Scottish Chamber, City of London Sinfonia, London Concert, RTE National Symphony, RTE Concert and the Bournemouth Symphony. Between 2009 and 2017 he was Associate Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra. Recent orchestral performances have included San Francisco Symphony and the Orchestra of Opera North. 

He is well-known for his work with young musicians. Before his current post with the National Youth Choir of Scotland, he was the founding conductor of the Ulster Youth Choir, director of the Total Aberdeen Youth Choir for six years, and director of the prestigious RSNO Junior Chorus for twenty four years.