The third annual Encore Chorale Camp at Chautauqua was a resounding success in every way. There were 49 happy campers form Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania , Delaware, Washington, DC and Ontario, Canada who travelled to Chautauqua Institution in Western New York for a fabulous week of learning and performing choral music. After registration at the beautiful Athenaeum Hotel on Monday at noon, the singers dove right in to their first choral rehearsal, singing thru all the pieces to give them an idea of the hard work ahead. A lovely reception and dinner was next on the agenda, followed by a brilliant concert of “Encores for Encore” by violinist Heather Haughn and pianist Jay DeWire. The tired campers were early in bed that first night.
The campers started Tuesday with a huge breakfast and then off to movement/dance class led by Peg Wallos-Barrett. It was a great class with lots of moving to get the singers warmed up for their morning choral rehearsal. Rehearsal started with sectionals for the men and women and then the singers joined forces for the remainder of the rehearsal. With just two rehearsals under their belt, they were already sounding quite good. After lunch there was soprano technique class and male sectionals. Then the singers enjoyed a lovely cruise on the paddle boat Chautauqua Belle. It was indeed a very nice way to spend a l
ate hot afternoon cruising on Chautauqua Lake. The campers returned to the hotel for a happy hour and then another fabulous dinner. That evening they rehearsed The Music Man with camp guest conductor Dr. Barry Talley, retired musical director of the United States Naval Academy. After rehearsing The Music Man, especially arranged for them by Dr. Talley, they were certainly pumped up and the hotel set up a cash bar. The singers enjoyed sitting out on the grand porch, enjoying New York wine, the lake breeze and getting to know one another.
Wednesday started with movement class and then off to sectionals to nail down parts. The singers still thought they needed more work on parts, so after lunch, they did more sectional work and then a full rehearsal. The sound of the chorale was really starting to take shape. It was a long but very productive day of rehearsing. After yet another excellent dinner on the hotel porch overlooking the lake, the singers attended a delightful concert performed by mezzo-soprano Jane Potter-Baumer, the Indiana, PA Encore Chorale Director. She sang the best of Broadway and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening after a long day. It was early to bed that night for most of the singers.
Thursday brought more sectionals and full rehearsals. The singers were becoming confident with their singing and the sound was exciting. Their strong musicianship was evident and they were close to performance level. Thursday evening the singers enjoyed a performance by the comedy improvisation company Unexpected Guests. Very funny indeed. It was a good way to wind down from an exhausting day.
Friday morning, some of the diehards attended the final movement class. It was also check-out time and then off to their final rehearsal. Lunch was served at the hotel and a special celebration of Betty Wren’s 74th birthday and Barry and Marcia Talley’s wedding anniversary. But the big event was the 50th wedding anniversary of Frank and Karen Gould that day. The hotel served a beautiful cake and the singers serenaded the bride and groom. Then it was out on the steps of the grand hotel for their camp picture. The singers looked magnificent in their black Encore tee shirts.
The grand finale concert began at 2pm and the singers opened with Dona Nobis Pacem from Haydn’s Orgelmesse. The tempo was brisk and the singing was precise and energetic. They followed the Haydn with Handel’s And the Glory of the Lord from Messiah, with Dr. Talley conducting. The sound was exciting and strong and the singers were enjoying themselves, as was the large and appreciative audience. Then the sound exploded with the spiritual Great Gettin’ Up Mornin'. The energy level was higher than they had ever achieved in rehearsal. Following this was a beautiful reading of Bright Morning Stars – a Kentucky Hymn. Closing this portion of the concert, the singers gave a highly spirited performance of Great Day! The singers were truly having a blast up on stage.
Then it was time to turn down the mood with beautiful and sincere performances of Gershwin’s But Not for Me and Embraceable You. The sound was shimmering. The grand finale came with a rousing performance of The Music Man, arranged by Talley. The chorale chose to have not one, but five Harold Hills! It worked well. It was a ambitious and exciting piece to end the concert. All the hard work the singers put into this arrangement really was evident. And the audience loved it.
After the concert, everyone said good bye to one another with lots of hugs and kisses until next year. There will be many repeat campers. These excellent singers learned a lot about their voices, met great friends, ate copious amounts of excellent food, enjoyed superb but hot weather, experienced the incredible sights and atmosphere of the Chautauqua Institution and gave a great final camp performance. It was indeed a great way to spend five days!
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