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May 1, 2014

Making musical history

80th Anniversary Concert is Newburyport Choral Society director's last

The Newburyport Choral Society is marking two major milestones at its concerts this weekend: its 80th anniversary and the departure of longtime music director Gerald Weale.

Weale, 77, is retiring after 27 years at the helm of the chorus. He is the longest-serving director since founder Clifton Lunt, who also led the group for 27 years. A succession of seven short-term directors followed Lunt before Weale was hired in 1986.

“I’m very happy to have been active this long,” said Weale, who retired from the Boston University School of Music seven years ago.

He has worked two jobs since then, as the choral society music director and as the organist and choirmaster of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hanover, N.H.

At the end of this month, Weale will move to Gettysburg, Pa., where his partner, the Rev. Herbert Sprouse, relocated to serve as rector at an Episcopal church. Weale is not sure what’s next for him, but he’s looking forward to living in his new home, “a really nice, antique house that saw the Gettysburg Battle” and is featured on the town’s historical tours.

“I’m ready for the next thing, whatever it may be,” he said. “It was clear that I needed to move. But my heart is still with the chorus and always will be.”

Although he knew that it was going to be his last concert when he started planning the spring program last year, Weale wanted to keep the focus strictly on the choral society and its 80th anniversary. The group of approximately 120 singers will still be accompanied by a professional orchestra, but soloists are being used on only one of the four works.

“My basic plan was to honor and glorify the chorus,” he said. “I wanted the spotlight to be on the chorus, not on soloists. I really wanted this to be about our singers who are there all of the time.”

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