Justin Appel has served as the Director of Music at Saint Philip’s In the Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona, since the summer of 2017. Alongside his colleague Dr. Jeffrey Campbell, the Associate Director of Music, Justin directs a choir program involving approximately 70 choristers, which provides musical leadership to two choral services each Sunday morning. Each First Sunday of the month, the combined adult choirs — the Saint Philip’s Singers and Canterbury Choir — sing a larger choral setting of a liturgical text with a chamber orchestra during these services. Justin is also responsible to lead the Saint Nicholas Choir in multiple monthly services, including Choral Evensong according to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer form on Third Sundays, which it sings in conjunction with the Schola Cantorum adults. The Saint Nicholas Choir utilizes the Voice for Life Curriculum from the Royal School of Church Music, and serves as a target for two choirs for younger choristers: the Cherub Choir and Saint Cecilia Choir. In the summer of 2016, the Saint Nicholas Choir and Schola Cantorum was the choir in residence at Worcester Cathedral for a weeklong residency. The next U.K. Residency is scheduled in 2019 at Ely Cathedral.
Justin earned a Doctorate in Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at the University of Notre Dame, where he studied with Carmen-Helena Téllez. He studied several chant traditions over the years, including Gregorian chant in Solesmes, France, and Byzantine and Slavic chant notations with Peter Jeffery at Notre Dame. More recently, Justin presented Byzantine chant with Peter Jeffery at the conference “Safeguarding the Musical Traditions of Eastern Christianity” in Rome.
As a conductor, Justin Appel enjoys exploring contemporary choral music by composers with various connections to Eastern Orthodoxy: John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, and Ēriks Ešenvalds. He is also interested in exploring the relationship between temporal perception in sacred music and liturgical models of time. Recently, Justin participated in choral conducting workshops with Conspirere and Craig Hella Johnson, and with Seraphic Fire and James Bass. He holds a master’s degree in sacred music and choral conducting from the University of Notre Dame, studying with Nancy Menk and Tom Merrill.
Justin sings regularly in choral ensembles, including Kosmologia and the Notre Dame Vocale. In a recent tour with the Vocale to Mexico and Chile, Justin sang the role of Dante in Robert Kyre’s cantata Paradiso, which was written for the Interdisciplinary Sacred Music Project at Notre Dame with the support of the Mellon Foundation. The fully staged event at Notre Dame was entitled ‘Journeying La Divina Commedia; Desert, Discovery, Song…’ Other recent Kosmologia events include a multi-disciplinary collaboration with the Non:Op Open Opera Works project with works by Shulamit Ran, “Of Music, Conscience, and Remembrance,” and a performance of Mario Lavista’s Mass at the Chicago Institute of Art’s Latino Music Festival. With the Notre Dame Vocale, Justin recently sang an all-Victoria concert at Santa Maria Monseratto in Rome, as well as a sold-out performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, with Nathan Gunn in the title role. He has studied voice with Stephen Lancaster.
A pianist from childhood, Justin has performed many solo recitals, and enjoys playing collaboratively with choirs, singers and instrumentalists. His teachers include John Blacklow at Notre Dame and Richard Farner at Pacific Lutheran University, where he took a bachelor’s degree in piano performance. Although the organ is a secondary instrument, Justin was fortunate to learn from excellent teachers like Craig Cramer, Susan Ferré and Paul Tegels. Through the generous support of Paul Fritts, he studied and played many organs by Arp Schnitger throughout the Netherlands and northern Germany.
Justin also composes choral music, and has written several works for commission, and always with a specific choir in mind. His work is influenced generally by the Anglican choral sound, and specifically by the work of Howells, Rachmaninov, and John Tavener. His love for Eastern Orthodox liturgy and the music of Arvo Pärt also plays an important role in his aesthetics. Justin has benefited from coaching by a number of composers, including Sven-David Sanström, Mario Lavista, Cary Boyce, Robert Kyr, Augusta Read Thomas, and Ivan Moody.
Justin recently traveled to Riga to study the Latvian choral scene, hearing the State Choir 'Latvijah' and the youth choir 'Kamer...' He wrote his doctoral thesis on the passions of Ēriks Ešenvalds, in which he maintains that these settings offer a uniquely postmodern articulation of Evangelical theology.
Justin is happily married and has five children.