Choral society: a hidden gem
summit daily news
Director Jeff Wakeley likens the Summit Choral Society to clay, formed aesthetically.
“The rewarding thing is seeing (singers) create something that at the beginning was very difficult to do … and then shaping that until it becomes something recognizable and beautiful,” Wakeley said. “Summit Choral Society is one of the great cultural gems of Summit County.”
The group has been meeting since 1979, when Gayle Knorr, the current president of the board, was in high school. Knorr is a long-time member who took 10 years off to raise her kids. But she returned at the right time – just as the choral society was preparing to perform at Carnegie Hall in 2000.
But that’s not the only link to Carnegie Hall the choral society has. Several of its members are professional singers, and people like Caroline Foley, the pianist, performed at Carnegie Hall at age 14 with the South Florida Youth Symphony. She double majored in piano and bassoon and minored in classical guitar. So, she knows what she’s talking about when she says:
“We have very strong singers in every section,” Foley said. “I think that adds a lot to the dynamics.”
Wakeley, who became the director of the choral society in October 2008, has helped open the members’ minds up to new concepts, such as more technical rhythms and starting with warm-ups, Foley said.
“He offers a new perspective that has made our group better,” she said.
Wakeley completed his choral training at what he calls the finest choral music school in the country, if not the world: Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J. He strives to carve out more of an identity for the Summit Choral Society by strengthening its reputation in the community. One of the ways he’s doing that is by expanding the group’s repertoire. While classical music is still a popular choice for the choral society, in June, they performed an all-bluegrass show for Breckenridge’s 150th anniversary, and next year, Wakeley plans to fold in Gilbert and Sullivan pieces, along with some jazz, and perhaps even Celtic selections.
“They have such an eclectic variety of music,” Foley said. “Every year, we’re doing a new opera with the Breckenridge Music Festival.”
Though Wakeley places great emphasis on dedication and quality, he encourages everyone who wants to, to join. In fact, the group doesn’t require an audition; it’s open to anyone.
“It’s a great way to meet people in the community,” said Sandy Kuschnerus, who has been in the group for seven years and now acts as vice president. “It’s a very relaxed atmosphere. There’s no pressure, but we do some challenging pieces and things that aren’t so familiar, therefore we stretch ourselves musically and vocally – and then we do some fun stuff.
“It really is a great opportunity to do something you’ve either always wanted to do or always have done … I can’t imagine my life in Summit County without it.”
“My hope is that we not only grow in numbers, but also in repertoire and in ties to the community,” Wakeley said. “It really is an undiscovered gem.”
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