The New Choral Society of Scarsdale just keeps getting better and better and better.
After a quarter of a century under the tutelage of Dr. John T. King, the artistic director and conductor, you might expect some slowdown of professionalism or diminishing perfection of the sounds. It hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t for some time to come.
Supreme perfectionist King simply won’t allow such slippage to happen, and the long Monday evening rehearsals and expert performances year after year are still welcomed and expected by the 45-person choir and the dozen or so orchestral performers. A likable professional, he pushes them to greatness and the best possible results with determination, a quick wit, grace and a smile. For their day jobs, the performers are doctors, dentists, architects, stockbrokers, college professors, schoolteachers, pastors, organists, retired and still working folks.
The above-average level of the locals’ sophistication, Carnegie Hall like, was evident again in the group’s two evening performances Dec. 6 and another Dec. 8 in the afternoon as the group opened its 26th season with its traditional holiday presentation of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1, pairing it for the first time with the New York premiere of J.C. Bach’s Magnificat.
Overall, it was simply extraordinary.
At both concerts in the jam-packed sanctuary of Hitchcock Presbyterian Church, the appreciative audiences — many of whom had waited more than 30 minutes for the doors to open — cheered, clapped and stomped their feet in robust approval even before the singers and orchestral performers could finish their music making. The Sunday performance was a tad better than the one on Friday evening. But make no mistake, both were outstanding.
Scanning the crowd from a front-row pew on Friday evening, one could see some attendees singing along with the choir. With the baton in his hand and sweat pouring down his face, King turned around to the crowd with a huge smile of approval. And why not. His hard work and that of the performers had paid off. Again.
As the crowd filed out after each show, you could hear them congratulating one another for being so clever as to attend such a special concert.
Scarsdale resident Graham Broyd said he attended both concerts primarily to get a glimpse of his friend, bass Morris Robinson, the accidental opera star and former All-American college football player at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. The affable Robinson, tall and burly, didn’t need to use Hitchcock’s new audio system as he stole the show at both concerts with a booming voice that resonated throughout the house. According to Broyd, Robinson squeezed this stopover in Scarsdale in between his rehearsals for his role in the upcoming performances of “The Magic Flute” at the Metropolitan Opera. “He’s the real deal,” Broyd said.
Steve Bush, another Scarsdale resident, said, “Sunday afternoon’s concert was awesome. Morris Robinson was fantastic with a strong voice and [he] pleased the members of the audience greatly, some of whom, because of the standing room only crowd, had to sit on pillows at the side of the church in order to listen to the international opera star and the other outstanding soloists.”
Bonnie Gould, another Scarsdale resident who has been an alto in the New Choral Society since its inception, said, “This weekend was the best our group — singers and orchestra together — has ever performed. It’s a real privilege to be part of such a dedicated group.”
The New Choral Society’s next evening of music making is an “Evening of Chamber Music” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, also at Hitchcock Church, 6 Greenacres Ave, Scarsdale.