He was a conductor, composer, arranger and teacher born in Pinelawn, New Jersey who took his studies at the Juilliard School of Music. After graduation he become an arranger and conductor and has since worked with popular acts such as Peter, Paul & Mary, Harry Belafonte and Paul Robeson.
In the mid to late 1950s he formed the Robert De Cormier Singers who have since become a highly acclaimed ensemble that have made many album recordings. Joining ASCAP in 1958, he continued to arrange and conduct on a national and international level and has worked with several orchestras and ensembles, often as a guest conductor, such as the Buffalo Philharmonic, Counterpoint which is an ensemble founded by him, the Dale Warland Singers, Turtle Creek Choral, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Zimriya World Assembly of Choirs in Israel as well as being the Music Director of the New York Choral Society for a period of 17 years. He has since become their Music Director Emeritus and led them in performances of Requiems by Berlioz and Verdi as well as the commissioned piece the Missa Iona. He led the orchestra in the operatic tour of the productions Brundibar and Der Kaiser von Atlantis in the mid-1990s while working on a two-year music project that took its basis from music that came from the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.
In 2002 he led the Vermont Symphony Orchestra & Chorus in a performance of Brahm’s Requiem and the New York Choral Society in a performance of his own Under a Greenwood Tree along with Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein and Four Sacred Pieces by Verdi as part the concerts from series held in his 80th birthday celebration.
He is recognized for his arrangements of spiritual and Christmas music but has also worked on popular music, choral works, the Broadway musicals 110 in the Shade and The Happiest Girl in the World and as the Choir Director on the album release Charlton Heston Reads the Old Testament.
His work as a composer of numerous works saw him writing the ballet score for Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder, the cantata The Jolly Beggar, Spiritual Suite and the choral works Legacy,Shout for Joy and Four Sonnets to Orpheus.
The recordings his work has appeared on are numerous and it’s impossible to mention them all but they include A Counterpoint Christmas and Missa Criolla with Counterpoint, at least four Christmas albums, Awake Sweet Love and Carmina Burana with the Robert De Cormier Singers, Dance Gal, Gimme Dat Banjo by The Robert De Cormier Folk Singers, Spirituals in Concert by Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman, Swing Dat Hammer by Harry Belafonte, God Bless America by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir , Vaughn Williams: Mass in G Minor and Kodaly: Missa Brevis by the New York Choral Society and Holiday Celebration by Peter, Paul & Mary and The Green Album by John Williams .
He appeared on television many times in series/programmes such as Choral Folk Songs, Christmas at Carnegie, Christmastide with Jessye Norman, Lifelines and Peter, Paul & Mommy too and was an Emmy Award winner for the a special he did with Harry Belafonte.
In the field of musical education he taught at the Little Red Schoolhouse in New York for six years and in arts committees he was a choral panel member of the National Endowment of the Arts and a member of the New York State Council of the Arts. Recognised for his contribution to music he was awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2002 by the Vermont Arts Council.
In 2012 he directed the Chorus at the Vermont High School Honors Music Festival and received an honorary degree from the University of Vermont.
He passed away in November 2017 when he was 95 years old.
Gregg Smith Singers recordings
Angels We Have Heard on High (French traditional/James Chadwick/Edwin Shippen Barnes )
Sony 66300 (CD: Voices of Christmas)
Gregg Smith Singers
Texas Boys Choir
Organ – E. Power Biggs
Arranger – Robert De Cormier
Here’s the Robert DeCormier Ensemble performing “The Holly and the Ivy”….