By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
On Sunday, May 21st the Genesee Valley Chorus (GVC) will culminate several months, and even years, of uncertainty, disappointments, victories and challenges, finally able to cap off their season on a musical high note. The many months have brought joy and happiness; heartbreak and sorrow; progress and setbacks and a renewed hope that things, at least in their musical world, are finally getting back to normal. The concert, directed by Norene Ferris, and accompanied by Carole Aldrich, will be performed at 2:00 PM at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Wellsville New York.
To celebrate the event and to show gratitude for the support and patience of the many friends, family, patrons and supporters, the Chorus is pulling out all the stops, to provide an entertaining memorable experience, by involving a number of specialized musical and theatrical artistic performers.
The challenges that the Chorus has faced over the past several months started when the Covid Pandemic nearly brought us to our knees, crippling nearly all social and artistic activities. It not only wreaked havoc in the taking of many lives but left multitudes behind to suffer not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Entertainment was far from the minds of those who suffered, and the chorus and its members suffered right along with everyone else.
All activity ceased and the chorus became inactive. As things started to normalize in the spring of 2022 public gatherings were allowed, albeit with proper isolation, masks etc. in place. In April, long time former director Norma Bartlett sent the following letter to former members:
This is the message you have all been waiting for! After being silent for two whole years, The Genesee Valley Chorus will resume rehearsals on Tuesday, April 19 at 7:00 PM at the Grace United Church.
To all those who have told me “I can’t sing anymore”, you have lots of company! I have heard this lament from nearly everyone I’ve talked to. Practice makes perfect, and we are ALL out of practice.
The first official performance of the “Resurrection era” was a performance for the Belmont Seniors at the Belmont American Legion on May 26, 2022. It didn’t take long for the word to spread throughout the area that GVC was back in business. The Chorus was invited to perform for a couple of short Patriotic performances, at the Scio Library, and a few more. At the end of June they adjourned for the summer fully ready to relax, rejuvenate and come back again in the fall.
Given the time away from formal performances and former members having drifted off to parts unknown a few additional performances were put together for the fall and into winter. Through this time, the only real constant was that of the Director. A variety of accompanists were approached, on an as needed basis, as they all had other commitments and/or travel plans. Just as plans for the upcoming Lenten Season performances, including a major concert with a program already developed by Norma were coming to fruition, tragedy struck.
On Christmas Eve of 2022, Norma Bartlett passed away. She was taken from sharing her many earthly music specialties and expertise with us, and was called upon to direct a “heavenly choir”
Her passing was a heart-breaking shock, not only to the members of the Genesee Valley Chorus but also to the number of schools, churches, and musical organizations with whom Norma had worked and shared her musical talents as both performer, teacher, and Director. The Chorus members said their last good-byes to Norma at The Mass of Christian Burial at the Holy Family Church in Belmont, NY on December 30, 2022.
In preparation for the Lenten season concert that Norma had planned and designed, several substitute directors and accompanists filled in to prepare the singers to do justice to the last concert designed by Norma.
One of those directors, also well known as an accomplished performer and musical educator, was Norene Ferris. Norene taught vocal music for thirty years at Bolivar-Richburg Central School and also served as the Coordinator for the Center for the Study of Music Teaching and Learning, and the Partnership for Music Teacher Excellence in the Music Education Department at Penn State University, retiring in June of 2011.
Norene undertook the task of proceeding to put together what has become known as the Genesee Valley Chorus signature concert of the year, its annual Spring Concert.
Given only 7 weeks to prepare for the premier Spring Concert, Norene, metaphorically speaking, started “molding the clay.”
When asked why she would undertake such a daunting task in such a short period of time Norene replied: “I am humbled to follow all the outstanding directors GVC has had since its inception. I now understand why this chorus has continued to thrive through good times and bad — its members! You have such a dedication to, and love of music, especially singing. It has been a gift for me to work with the group and get to know you. I am confident that joy and love of singing will overflow to our listeners Sunday.”
Many things have been said about music and it has been given many names. Music can be a powerful force with magical powers. It can heal a broken heart, and it has done so, resulting from both personal tragedy and romantic disappointment. It can lift your spirits from depression, and it can share your love, sympathy, or reverence.
Music transgresses time. It is not unique other than language, to any culture, nationality, birthright, or birthplace, and it is recognizable in any of its many forms.
Music is magical in its beauty, its mystery, its power, and its hold, over any and all weaknesses, flaws or imperfections.
You are invited to witness the magic that music can perform, when the Genesee Valley Chorus presents its 2023 Spring Concert Music and Love Sunday, May 21st, at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Wellsville, New York. The chorus will be directed by Norene Ferris with accompaniment by Carole Aldrich. In addition to the GVC members, many local musicians and high school singers including The Fountain Arts Center Children’s Choir, directed by Amanda Robbins, and many other soloists, as noted in the program listing below will join in sharing the magic of music and love, that it brings to all of us.