NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 9, 2014

A concert to be sung about

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Perhaps, during his 27 years as director of the Newburyport Choral Society, Dr. Gerald Weale could have been more pleased by the performance of an earlier spring concert, but I doubt it.

This one, his last as director here, was sensational.

I attended last Saturday night’s performance at the Belleville Congregational Church as one among many others, but not as many as on Sunday, when cars were lined up on both sides of High Street for blocks.

What followed was truly uplifting. I can’t imagine a more fitting farewell gift than what the members and all those personally involved in the concert preparation created.

Early arrival had given me a chance to slake my thirst with a 32-page booklet, the contents of which are of historic importance.

I have read a number of such introductions over a lifetime. I have never read a more engaging one.

The society’s president, Joanne Jonson, wrote in part:

“This concert is a poignant passage for us that marks Dr. Weale’s retirement. For 27 years Jerry has taught us, coached us, challenged us, and inspired us.

“Often described as a gifted storyteller, he brought composers and their music to life in our rehearsal, and always radiated great enthusiasm for the music we perform.

“He has created an outstanding legacy of choral performances and he will be greatly missed.”

I was pleased to have arrived early enough to learn what was to come together with brief biographies, including that of Dr. Weale and of three others.

Dr. Kirsten Helgeland, following a broadly enriching career in teaching and performance, began to serve as accompanist with the Newburyport Choral Society in 2005.

The two guest soloists for the program were soprano Robyn Marie Lamp, whose voice and presence is assurance of success beyond what has been an impressive beginning.

As for internationally renowned baritone Stephen Salters, his presence on this occasion was a special homecoming because he had made his first professional appearance with the Newburyport Choral Society in 1990.

His singing of “Donna Nobis” was a special gift of honor for the departing Dr. Weale, and a highlight for all on an evening enriched by every presentation.

One of them, “Frostiana” by the late Randall Thompson, a musical interpretation of seven poems by Robert Frost, was a special delight in an evening of delight making.

It was a special treat to have the poems in hand as Frost’s words for each of the seven were sung to take us where we might go.

Poetry and music do that. It was a special treat to read the poetry line by line while listening to where the singing took us.

I found mine in the last five lines of “The Road Not Taken.”

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

“Somewhere ages and ages hence:

“Two roads diverged in wood, and I —

“I took the one less traveled by,

“And that made all the difference.”

Thank you, Dr. Weale.

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Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is plantejr@comcast.net.