As the group’s 44th season draws to a close, vocalists in the Schoharie Valley Singers are bracing for change. The group will present its spring concert series this weekend, marking the end of Artistic Director Benjamin April’s tenure.
The singers will perform two concerts, both at 7:30 p.m. The first will take place Friday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Central Bridge. The second will be held Saturday at Reformed Presbyterian Church in Duanesburg. Tickets are $10 at the door. Admission for students is free.
April, who has been directing the singers for five years, chose an uplifting title for his last two shows: “Hope is Still Here.” He explained that the theme was inspired by developments of the past five years.
“The first spring concert that we did under my direction back in 2019 was called ‘We Shall Overcome: Songs of Hope and Freedom,’ ” April said. “I think COVID took the wind out of a lot of people’s sails. The point that I wanted to make with this concert was that the hope we sang about in 2019 is still there and never actually left.”
The choir will perform a diverse selection of songs, including some from the spring 2019 season. Concerts will also feature an original composition by April based on the hymn text “For the Beauty of the Earth.”
Betsy Meredith, a retired music teacher who has been a Schoharie Valley Singer for nearly 15 years, spoke enthusiastically about this season’s concert music.
“The lyrics of the songs are very thought-provoking. The music itself is extraordinarily beautiful,” Meredith said.
Mitch Haverly, another longtime member of the group who served as its second artistic director, also praised April’s choice of music and theme.
“I think the title of the concert is very appropriate,” Haverly said. “People will go away knowing that there is hope yet for our world if we have anything to say about it.”
According to Robert Holt, president and a charter member of the Schoharie Valley Singers, April’s leadership style is just as important to the group as his artistic vision.
“[He’s] laid-back but he knows exactly what he wants. We had fun with him,” Holt said. “Our evenings went by really fast. Just having a younger person made quite a difference for us.”
Rae Jean Teeter will take over for April when the Singers’ 45th season begins in August. Teeter is a seasoned choral conductor and music educator known for her work directing the Melodies of Christmas Chorale. Between various speaking engagements and guest conductorships, she works as an adjunct professor at The College of Saint Rose.
Though April will be missed, Holt expressed hope for the future.
“We are enormously fortunate to have Rae as our fourth artistic director and conductor. Rae will bring a new musical perspective under her leadership,” Holt said.
Meredith is also confident that Teeter will honor the spirit of the group.
“I know that she is a leader in New York state music education. She’s highly talented and very well educated, so I’m expecting that we will continue to learn outstanding core literature,” Meredith said. “I’ve seen her work with students, and I know that her way with people is very kind and gentle. I think we’ll continue to have a climate of kindness, encouragement and fun.”
As April prepares to take his final bow this weekend, he’s as optimistic as ever about the organization’s future.
“It is my hope that the tradition of the Valley Singers — building relationships, interacting with the community — really starts to flourish like it did prepandemic,” April said. “I’m hoping that it continues to propel the group into the future.”