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May 9, 2013

Concert reunites former artistic directors

PLATTSBURGH — Thirty years disappeared since Richard Probert founded the Champlain Valley Oratorio Society, now Champlain Valley Voices.

Probert, then a faculty member at SUNY Plattsburgh, now teaches at Syracuse University.

For the choral group’s 30th anniversary concert Saturday, Probert returns along with other former directors David Neiweem, professor of music at the University of Vermont, and Jo Ellen Miano, professor of music at Plattsburgh State, to conduct choral masterworks with a full orchestra.

“It’s kind of a musical hodgepodge,” said Karen Becker, artistic director of Champlain Valley Voices.

“The first half is with chorus and piano, and that’s all conducted by Richard Probert, the man of the hour. I will play piano. We reached out to him as the founder of the group. He was thrilled to come back and be part of this 30th anniversary celebration.”

The first half features two spirituals by Aaron Copland.

“It has a real American feel to it,” Becker said. “We’re doing a William Billings ‘Lamentations Over Boston.’ It’s sort of an ancient song. It’s shape-note singing like a madrigal or chant. Richard picked this song to do in September. Now, with what happened in Boston, it’s become incredibly timely,” Becker said.

Champlain Valley Voices began rehearsing the song earlier in the spring.

“It was one of those karmic things. I asked him to pick repertoire he’s done with the group in the past. It’s interesting how all that has worked out,” she said.

In the second half of the program, Neiweem picks up the baton to conduct “Ave Verum Corpus” by Mozart.

“Jo Ellen Miano, the most recent artistic director before me, does one piece by Brahms and Haydn that features a trio of Plattsburgh State students,” Becker said.

The concert concludes with Howard Hanson’s “Song of Democracy” conducted by Probert.

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