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  Robert Petillo tenor

Called “one of the enduring joys of the local early-music scene” by the Washington Post, tenor Robert Petillo has appeared many times with virtually every oratorio society in the greater DC area since the early 1980s.  He is perhaps best known as the Evangelist in numerous performances of the Bach passion settings of Matthew and John, as well as passion settings by Telemann, CPE Bach, Johann Theile, and others. 

He is often heard in performances of Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Mass in B Minor with organizations like the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, the Cathedral Choral Society, City Choir of Washington, and the Washington Bach Consort.  He has received acclaim for his many performances of Monteverdi’s Vespers 1610, notably in Venice, Italy,  in the National Cathedral with the Folger Consort, and at Strathmore Hall with the City Choir of Washington.  His performing travels have also taken him to Italy, England, and Germany, where he was tenor soloist with the Washington Bach Consort for their Bach anniversary tours in 1985 and 2000 and sang the role of Jupiter in Handel’s Semele in the 1990 Halle Handel Festival.

 Robert has been a fan of Renaissance polyphony and mediaeval music since college days, and sang both tenor and countertenor with collegium musicum ensembles at Rutgers and the University of Maryland. At Rutgers he studied the music of 16th century composer Claude LeJeune and wrote an honors thesis on his polyphonic settings of the Psalms in the French translations of Clement Marot and others in Calvin's circle.  Once in the DC area, he also began performing regularly with the Washington Camerata, A Newe Jewell, the Folger Consort, and other early music groups.  He was a co-founder of the Washington Kantorei in 1994 and assisted with the editing and premier performances of many unusual choral works, notably, unpublished church cantatas by Georg Philipp Telemann, whose music was the subject of his doctoral dissertation. 

Sergeant Major Petillo retired in 2017 after almost 32 years of service to our nation as a member of one of the most elite male vocal ensembles in the world, The United States Army Chorus. Frequently featured as a soloist in thousands of concerts across the country, and on many Chorus recordings, he served 10 years as the first tenor section leader, and 12 years as a tenor group leader. Often called upon as a special soloist for visiting foreign dignitaries, he has sung in 38 languages and made enormous contributions to diplomacy and cultural exchange.

He graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers University and earned his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees at the University of Maryland, where he studied voice with the late tenor James McDonald.