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Philomusica Concert Choir makes beautiful music for 50 years

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EAST BRUNSWICK–Commemorating a half a century of singing and performing, the Philomusica Concert Choir will be the host to several events to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

“Our major concert for the anniversary focuses on a piece commissioned by Philomusica from composer Norman Noll and also includes the first piece ever performed by the original Philomusica in 1969, ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden.’ Noll’s piece is titled ‘Songs of Experience, Celebrating 50 Years.’ It is based on the poems of William Blake set to music by Noll,” vice President Faith Knabe said.

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The concerts will be at 8 p.m. on May 18 and at 4 p.m. on May 19 at Our Lady of Peace Church, 1740 Route 130 at Washington Place, North Brunswick.

The choir will also collaborate with Our Lady of Peace Church to celebrate its 50th anniversary year, the parish’s 50th year and Father John Polyak’s 50 years as pastor of Our Lady of Peace, according to Knabe.

The choir will also have a Winter Wine Tasting to benefit Philomusica Concert Choir from 5-7 p.m. on Feb. 24 at Pino’s Gift Basket Shoppe and Wine Cellar, 13 North 4th Ave. in Highland Park. Tickets will include a commemorative 50th anniversary wine glass.

“As a graduate of Westminster Choir College that was all I needed. I held a meeting with eight of my choir members – a perfectly balanced soprano, alto, tenor, bass (SATB) quartet – and made plans. I contacted Rutgers University to inquire about using Kirkpatrick Chapel. Having a professional acquaintance with the Kirkpatrick Chapel organist David Drinkwater helped,” choir founder Rosemarie Noone said in a prepared statement.

Noone said she and Drinkwater scheduled their first concert there and since the Easter season was still “in the air”‘ she chose Bach’s “Christ lag in Todesbanden” as the concert’s centerpiece. She said she met with three members of that first ensemble to flesh out what the organization would look like and come up with its name.

“My lead bass, Dennis Vecsey, had spent a lot of time on his own thinking about a name and offered it as a suggestion saying, ‘the only name it can be is Philomusica [which means] love of music.’ That was their raison d’etre,” Noone said in the statement. “The first concert was held on May 23, 1969, in Kirkpatrick Chapel with David Drinkwater, the Kirkpatrick organist and the string quartet accompanying.”

Knabe said from that eight-person ensemble, Philomusica evolved over the years into a 30 to 40 member chorus that performs a wide variety of classical music. Over the years it became Philomusica Chamber Choir, and now Philomusica Concert Choir to more accurately reflect its size and performance level.

The choir’s Music Director/Conductor Dennis Boyle has been with Philomusica since 1982. Shea Velloso, who is an organist at the United Methodist Church of Milltown, is the choir’s accompanist and organist for rehearsals and concerts, according to Knabe.

“The choir usually has between 30 to 40 members but depending on [the] member or potential member schedules and other commitments, that can vary widely,” Knabe said. “Philomusica is all volunteer, with members assuming not only the musical roles but also all the administrative tasks which are part of a running a performing concert choir.”

The choir is holding auditions which will take place at 10 p.m. Jan. 21 and 28 and Feb. 4 and 11 at The Unitarian Society, 176 Tices Lane, East Brunswick. Choir rehearsals are held every Monday night from 7:30-10 p.m.

“Potential new members are encouraged to come to a rehearsal at 7:30 and either sit in and sing with us or sit and listen. Information on what to expect at an audition is on our website under the auditions tab,” Knabe said. “You don’t have to be an East Brunswick resident to audition and sing with us. We have members from Monroe, Somerset, Highland Park, Sayreville and Aberdeen to mention a few.”

Knabe said that the choir performs two sets of concerts each year, one set in May and the other set in December. Each set is two performances.

“For the past 10-plus years we have performed primarily at Our Lady of Peace Roman Catholic Church in North Brunswick, which has excellent acoustics and a very welcoming pastor and congregation,” Knabe said. “We have performed in other area churches, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, England’s Canterbury Cathedral, the New Jersey Governor’s mansion, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center and St. Ignatius Church in New York City.”

Knabe said that the choir is very excited about its 50th anniversary year. On Dec. 1 and 2, 2018, the choir hosted “On Christmas Night” concerts which were the first in the 50th concert year season.

“We performed Bob Chilcott’s ‘On Christmas Night’ and Ralph Vaughan Williams ‘Fantasia on Christmas Carols’ with three vocal guest soloists, and four instrumental soloists,” Knabe said. “This program was made possible in part by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders through a grant from the Department of State’s New Jersey State Council on the Arts.”

For more information about the Philomusica Concert Choir, visit www.philomusica.org.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.

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