Free 50th Celebration Concert: Past Present Future
April 22, 2017 at Wesley Church, Bethlehem; 6:30 p.m. pre-concert lecture; 7:30 p.m. concert; Followed by a reception
Concord Chamber Singers (CCS), an elite 40-voice chorus that has been making music and contributing to the artistic richness in the Lehigh Valley for 50 years, will offer a free concert on April 22, 2017. According to Artistic Director Jennifer Kelly, the concert, which includes the world premiere of Hilary Tann’s “Measuring the Distance” as well as Sunrise Mass by Ola Gjeilo with chamber orchestra, is an opportunity for the chorus to thank the community for decades of faithful support. The celebration will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Wesley Church, 2540 Center Street in Bethlehem, and will be followed by a reception. A pre-concert lecture with Kelly, founding director Blaine Shover, and composer Hilary Tann will take place from 6:30-7 p.m. The events are supported, in part, from a generous grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Kelly, who also serves as Associate Professor of Music, Director of the Arts, and Director of Choral Activities at Lafayette College, has been with CCS for five seasons and notes that this 50th season celebration concert, aptly titled “Past, Present, Future,” will explore and celebrate CCS’s musical heritage. It will feature community favorite works from the past 50 years as well as photos and reflections to recognize the group’s past. Works that have recently defined the niche and contribution of CCS in the Lehigh Valley will highlight the present. A pre-concert discussion and reflection will engage the community in the choir’s work and explore the trajectory for its future. In addition, Shover will guest conduct one piece in the program.
The genesis for Concord Chamber Singers came in 1967 when Shover, professor of music at Shippensburg University, was walking along Riverside Drive in New York City with a friend, dreaming about a community chorus that could sing both sacred and secular music. According to Shover, CCS “was neither a completely ‘classical’ music choir nor a ‘pops’ choir nor a ‘show’ choir,” he says, “they might expect to hear anything from Lucas Foss or Alberto Ginastera to Rodgers and Hammerstein.” At Shippensburg, Shover still programs his choirs in what he calls “these wildly different genres.” Under Kelly’s direction, CCS continues to enthusiastically perform a broad repertoire representing music from the medieval period to the present day. Embracing all styles and genres, Kelly notes that she “consciously includes composers and works that are underrepresented within the Lehigh Valley.” She adds that the high standards begun by Shover continue, as the chorus strives for vocal flexibility to accurately perform stylistic differences within the varied genres it presents.
Shover and a musical friend invited the first singers to the chorus. In the years since, the chorus has become so popular that singers must audition to earn their spot. Over the decades, CCS’s size has remained roughly the same, averaging between 35 and 45 singers. According to Kelly, the chorus’s size allows it to exercise flexibility of repertoire not feasible for larger groups; a mid-size ensemble also encourages every singer to be a leader and sing as a soloist. As for the name of CCS, Shover explains that the word “concord” vividly reflects what the chorus has been for 50 years: “a congruency of people of different nationalities, races, and faiths who love to join together to make music.” As it did in its early days, the chorus continues to represent multiple generations, backgrounds, and experiences.
A vision toward building community remains an enduring value for CCS. The words “Hineh ma tov uma n’im” were printed on the cover of the first concert program in 1967. Those words come from Psalm 133, verse 1, and translate: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Today, CCS continues to make conscious decisions that support and affect our ever-growing Lehigh Valley community. Few community ensembles survive and continue to produce exceptional music for 50 years, but every Friday night CCS gathers in a rehearsal room at Lafayette College. They come from different jobs, families, experiences and get together every week to make music. At the end of each rehearsal series, they joyously share that music with others, because our community ties reach beyond the chorus. “Live music,” explains Kelly, “is about the collective experience of everyone in the room.” Music has the power to change lives, touch souls and build community by telling the abundant stories that make us human. Concord Chamber Singers is eager to do just that on April 22.
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