Greenwich Choral Society Gets Standing Ovation
By Chéye Roberson
The performance of “Judas Maccabaeus” by the Greenwich Choral Society at Christ Church last Saturday began with instruments and voices, and ended with the thunderous applause of the audience as it rose to its feet.
Although the choral society is not affiliated with Christ Church, the two organizations have maintained a happy working relationship through the years.
“We’ve been performing there for decades. It’s a wonderful space and the acoustics are excellent,” said Lee Paine, a performer as well as a member of the administrative staff.
The choral society sold 90 percent of the 425 seats at Christ Church. Prior to the performance the choral society was featured on WGCH to promote the event, and because of the history behind “Judas Maccabaeus,” composed by George Frideric Handel in 1746, the choral society reached out to some of the synagogues in the area.
“‘Judas Maccabaeus’ is about a Jewish hero, and we have never performed it before,” said Paine. “Music is for everyone—not just for people of one faith or another.”
The choral society is in its 91st year, and Paine has been a member for “more than half of its lifetime.” Paine said the choral society put in a lot of work to have the oratorio come out as well as possible.
The Greenwich Choral Society chair, Anne Marie Hynes, performed in the show while recovering from foot surgery. “Not the best timing,” she said.
The choral society made accommodations for Hynes to have a footrest so that she could take part in the show.
After the concert, the group invited everyone in the audience to the reception afterwards to celebrate Paul Mueller’s 20th anniversary as the musical director and conductor of the Greenwich Choral Society. There were 300 people at the reception.
“I was happy to give a toast for that. He’s such a wonderful conductor and leader for us,” said Hynes.
“He’s brought us to a whole new level,” said Paine.
Paine said it’s important for the choral society to maintain a high standard because of fierce competition from distractions like the Internet and mobile devices. Our close proximity to New York City, where people can the Metropolitan Opera and the like, can also have an effect on audience expectations.
“I think a lot of choral groups near bigger cities are being compared,” said Paine. “It’s not a group you can join and glide. You have to put in the work. I’m thrilled to have been in it as long as I have.”
The performers in the choral society continue to audition regularly, even after they have been accepted as members.
“As voices get older, changes can take place,” said Paine. “You have to be like an athlete and you have to keep up with your vocal training.”
Paine loved seeing the whole show come together. The night of the performance was the first time Paine heard the show in its entirety, because the soloists rehearse separately from the chorus.
She felt Mueller perfectly fused together the various elements of the performance. “He did beautiful duets with soloists that were just heavenly,” said Paine. “We received a terrific standing ovation last night.”