By Mary Power | 12/17/2012
A group of more than 150 singers and musicians gathers each week during the academic year to form the Masterworks Chorale at Shepherd University. Choir members range from freshman vocal students to elderly members of the Shepherdstown community. They come together to perform in one of the largest musical ensembles in the region.
The Masterworks Chorale, which has about 135 singers, is led by Erik Jones, director of Choral Activities at Shepherd University. Jones has directed the chorale group for the last eight years. Half of the choir’s members are students at the university. The other half are members of the community. The group performs with a full orchestra, which plays the music of master composers like Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart.
“We practice every Monday during school time. It is offered as a class and as an audit for those who want to participate from the community. There is lots of support from locals, and it is one of the largest chorale groups in the region,” Jones said.
Some community members have participated for over 15 years.
Joie Verheul, a Vocal Performance Senior and Soprano Section Leader, said the community involvement is part of what make Masterworks Chorale group so special.
“I really like the fact that Dr. Jones calls it a “Town and Gown” choir. And I really like getting to work with the community members as well as the students. Bringing everybody together is a really important thing, especially in a small town community like this,” said Verheul.
“People can come here, they can work with Dr. Jones, and they can really have experience with professionals in the field and us, and we can all kind of grow and learn together. It makes a great sense of community for us,” said Mark Adelsberger, a tenor section leader.
Community involvement is not the only thing that makes the Masterworks Chorale unique. The group performs pieces that are from the last three hundred years of choral works.
On November 5, in Saint James Catholic Church, in Charles Town, the sound of Latin and a full orchestra soared through the rafters. The Church hosted the Masterworks Chorale’s first performance of the semester. After 22 hours of choral practice, the group performed two Requiem Masses for a crowd of family members and music lovers.
Jillian Wiley, Masterworks Manager and a vocal performance senior at Shepherd University, said the pieces the group performs are what makes it unique.
“I really enjoy the large works that we do, “ said Wiley. ”This semester we’re doing Faure’s Requiem and Schubert’s Mass in G Major, and they’re all just beautiful works. It’s really cool to be a part of a 135-person choir. It’s a very large sound and a bit of an adrenaline rush because it’s so loud.”
The choir performs two pieces every semester in two concurrent performances. Jones said the hardest part of his job each semester is selecting pieces that expose students and the community to different kinds of music. Over the last few years the choir has performed pieces including Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor, Carmina Burana, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah.
“I think it’s a fantastic thing. It gives community members exposure to the music that we’re studying, and it gives us the opportunity to sing or play the music that we are studying, from whatever era it may be from,” Adelsberger said.
This is the first year the group has performed with a guest conductor. Stephen Czarkowski is the Music Director and Conductor of the Apollo Chamber Orchestra, Conductor of the Symphonette at Landon, Associate Conductor of Opera Camerata of Washington, D.C. and the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Frederick Regional Youth Choir. He conducted Schubert’s Mass in G Major at the concert in November.
Jones said the size and scope of the pieces they cover drives community involvement.
“Part of our success in having such a large ensemble here in Jefferson County is that there is a great burning need and desire to sing this wonderful music,” said Jones. “The opportunity out here to sing with such a wonderful ensemble and a full orchestra has not been a common one in this area. The presence of Masterworks really brought forward a desire to sing this music.”
To get involved with the Masterworks Chorale email Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Smith takes full advantage of the wildlife surrounding him. As park superintendent at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, Smith has acres of land to forage for food and hunt for animals. According to Smith, foraging provides a healthier way of living, but more importantly, a chance to get outside and connect with nature.
Michael Buttrill manages a 15-acre organic farm in Renick, W.Va., where he produces his own biodiesel fuel to power his vehicles and tractor. Michael has been perfecting his fuel for seven years with a goal to live more sustainably and rely less on non-renewable resources.
Innovation Zone has brought an entirely new learning style to Doddridge County High School. Every other Friday the school runs on a two hour early dismissal schedule when students separate into different groups to learn new skills from teachers and community volunteers.
Dr. Mark Cucuzzella has been a runner his entire life, but when injuries plagued him throughout high school and college, he searched for a remedy other than his doctor’s advice of “don’t run.” He began to shave the heels off of his own running sneakers, becoming a true pioneer in the minimalist running movement. After opening Two River Treads in Shepherdstown, W.Va., one of the first minimalist running stores in the United States, Dr. Cucuzzella solidified himself in the running community.
Shepherdstown, W.Va., native Carlos Niederhauser can look back on a life that had him participating in the world’s longest car rally, traveling the globe, fixing foreign race cars, developing real estate and becoming a landlord for over 100 Jefferson County properties.
After the death of her father Dr. John Moossy, Joan Moossy honors his memory by publishing his autobiography and working to preserve his art and home in Shepherdstown for aspiring artists. Coming from New York City, she is dealt with the decision on how to continue her father’s legacy within this tight-nit community. Joan looks to open the doors to her father’s house and welcome any artist who is looking to getaway from their everyday surrounding and rekindle their passion for art.
Story Synopsis- Sheila Brannan lived her life in a constant creative roll until a brain aneurysm in 2007 threatened her stained glass career. Since recovering from that, she is back in her home studio and has gotten to a place she considers to be the “new normal.”
Lars Prillman is a 28 year old organic farmer in Shepherdstown, W.Va. He spent his early 20s as a traveling musician in Knoxville, Tenn. He found his “calling” while doing an apprenticeship on the farm of one of his former 4-H counselors. He now runs his own farm with the help of his family.
Phil and Shanna Mastrangelo own Mellow Moods Café & Juice bar, an organic restaurant in Shepherdstown, W.Va. Their hope is to give people a vacation-like atmosphere in their everyday lives while serving locally-grown, healthy foods.