Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Finger Lakes Chorale marks 40 years

The Finger Lakes Chorale, a choral group based at Finger Lakes Community College, will mark its 40th anniversary with a performance of Handel’s oratorio “Solomon” on April 30 and May 1.
The Chorale, directed by Dennis Maxfield, also an adjunct faculty member at FLCC, will be accompanied by orchestra, organ and harpsichord.
Performances are 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 1, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 183 N. Main St. in Canandaigua. The performances are free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted for the Dr. A. John Walker Music Award for Finger Lakes Community College music students.

The Finger Lakes Chorale was founded in a Canandaigua storefront in 1971 by David Honness. The following year, Dr. A. John Walker, professor emeritus, became the director and led the Chorale for nearly 30 years.
Under his leadership, the Chorale traveled twice to Europe to perform. The ensemble also sang with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and provided backup vocals for Barry Manilow. In 1982, Renee Fleming, who would later become a world-renowned opera star, sang Brahms’ “German Requiem” with the Chorale. At the time, she was attending the Eastman School of Music for her graduate work.
Nels Carr of Canandaigua has sung with the Finger Lakes Chorale for 31 years. He says that being with the group has been a great and enriching experience. “It’s an outlet for my musical longings.  I sang in high school, but then I started a family and was working so I wasn’t actively involved in singing. One day I saw an ad in the paper for a singing group, so I joined. Singing with the Chorale has exposed me to music I wouldn’t have otherwise been, especially the classics.”
In celebration of 40 years of performing, the Chorale will sing Handel’s “Solomon,” one of his two oratorios written for two choruses and an orchestra. Handel wrote the classic in 1748 using some dramatic license in telling three biblical stories based on Solomon’s life.
Along with the Chorale, the Finger Lakes Camerata will sing to the sounds a 22-piece orchestra comprised of musicians from Rochester and the Finger Lakes area. 
Dennis Maxfield took over direction of the Chorale in 2004. Carr describes Maxfield as easy to work with and says that, with Maxfield’s musical expertise, the Chorale has blossomed. “When he works with us, he gets the most out of us and we have fun at the same time,” Carr says.
Carr recalls memories of the Chorale and Camerata, a separate, smaller vocal group comprised of semi-professional singers from the area. “In the early years, the audience started out small. During a concert, someone in the group would count how many people were in the audience. There would be maybe 20 people. Today more than 400 attend our holiday concerts. It’s standing room only.”
The ensembles have performed at various area venues: Constellation Brands Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center, Granger Homestead, Geneva-on-the-Lake and the Sodus Point Lighthouse, just to name a few.
“One year we sang music from the ’60s and ’70s at the shell (CMAC) and the East Bloomfield Congregational Church,” remembers Carr. “The people were dancing in the aisle. It was a fantastic experience to look out and see it.”
In the past 40 years, more than 1,500 people have been members of the Chorale. The Chorale size has ranged from 50 to 130 members, depending on the time of year. Singers have come from up to five counties and numerous cities, towns and villages in the area. 
“Several people met their spouses while singing in the Camerata,” chuckles Carr. “The camaraderie is great. I’ve met lots of nice people and gotten to know some of their families. I have friendships that will stay with me forever.”
For more information, contact Dennis Maxfield at (585) 396-0027 or maxfiedc@flcc.edu.  Facebook users can search for the Chorale under “FLCC Chorale.”

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