Springfield Community Chorus continues landmark year

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The Springfield Community Chorus continued celebrating its 50th anniversary with a recent concert entitled “A Golden Celebration of Song” at the Springfield High School Auditorium. The program featured the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (“Ode to Joy”) and the world premier of “When Music Sounds” by Zeke Hecker of Guilford, Vermont.

The SCC, led by Kenneth Olsson, was joined by chorus members from Bennington as well as a twenty-piece orchestra. Candace Montesi, a former director of the SCC, served as guest conductor for part of the concert. The concert had also been presented at Mount Anthony Union Middle School in Bennington at an earlier date.

SCC string section of orchestra. Photo by Karen Engdahl

Olsson began the program with the reprise of several “old favorites” of the chorus, including “If Music Be the Food of Love,” “The Silence and the Song,” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” among others.

The first half of the concert concluded with the world premiere of Zeke Hecker’s composition, “When Music Sounds,” commissioned for the occasion. Walter de la Mare’s poem of the same name provided the text for the piece, which Hecker said he used in response to Olsson’s request for “something about music.” Though the text has been used for several choral settings over the last few years (including those by Tobenski in 2012 and Connor and Johnson, both in 2016), Hecker’s is the only one using a chamber orchestra. Hecker dedicated the piece to Olsson, his “champion.”

Beethoven’s famous “Ode to Joy,” the last movement of his Ninth Symphony, was the rousing conclusion of the afternoon. Chorus and orchestra were joined by four vocal soloists: Julie Olsson, Soprano; Hallie Whitcomb, Alto; James Anderson, Tenor; and Cailin Marcel Manson, Baritone.

Anderson, Manson, and Miss Olsson came to the performance with years of experience in opera and musical theatre. Whitcomb, a Springfield native and chorus member for many decades, stepped into the alto soloist role as a replacement when the original soloist became unable to fulfill her duties.

“It’s been amazing,” said Whitcomb before the Springfield performance. “When we started to sing with the orchestra in Bennington, it was exhilarating. I’m so grateful I’ve had the chance to sing this piece.”

The SCC started in the autumn of 1967 under the direction of Victoria Lemay, singing simple four-part songs of non-religious nature for small groups and clubs.  Moving on to more complex music they gave annual spring concerts. Later as their library and expertise grew, a Christmas concert was given each year; sometimes repeated in nearby towns. The chorus was featured with the Vermont Symphony several times with Lemay on the podium, including a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in 1980.

Victoria Lemay directed the chorus for 20 years. She was succeeded by Deirdre Hiltsley, who directed the chorus for 19 years. Candace Montesi directed the chorus for the next five years.

In 2011, Ken Olsson assumed the directorship of the Springfield Community Chorus. Under his direction, the chorus has presented performances of major works, including Vivaldi’s Gloria, Mozart’s Requiem in d minor, and Haydn’s The Creation, to audience acclaim locally and as far afield as Carnegie Hall.

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