Letter: Swan song

Often have I sat in the audience and enjoyed the chorus’s singing with the Juneau Symphony Orchestra. The most recent concert was reviewed by Tierra Colberg, who had done just that. I, on the other hand, had been in the chorus, on the other side of the baton, observing and enjoying all the wonderfully musical and social things that occur behind the scene. It was most meaningful to me as the final performance in the career of this octogenarian.

For months before the arrival of conductor Troy Quinn, Bruce Simonson, founder and longtime leader of the Juneau Bach Society, prepared the large, eager chorus. There was no wasted time, and it seemed that every member of the large group loved the man for his personality as well as his efficient conducting.

On the subject of the “large chorus”, where do all of these singers come from? They seem to crawl out of the woodwork to contribute to the beautiful choral sound. By the way, the Vaughan Williams “Dona nobis pacem” is a tricky score — not easy to sing. Imagine my surprise, then, to learn that several members of the group had memorized the entire work!

Laura Haywood coordinated everything behind the scenes, and conductors Jan Soboleff Levy and Richard Moore substituted expertly for Mr. Simonson when he was away.

To make the rendition of this fine work as good as it could be, we members had access to tape recordings of the four choral parts. Furthermore, Mr. Simonson gave us pages of detailed notes about every crescendo, release, point of emphasis, etc., in the score. By the time Mr. Quinn arrived, we were well schooled. A remarkable conductor, he leads his musicians with expert knowledge of the score, which he conducts by memory, and there is not the tiniest wasted or vague motion in his communication with the musicians.

The seventy of us choristers rehearsed at least semiweekly for months and made new friends while making music. It was an enchanting experience for us. I hope it was the same for you. If you are among the unfortunate who missed the concert, I hope you won’t miss the next one. It’s bound to be an uplifting experience, no matter on which side of the proscenium you happen to be.

John d’Armand,