A choral conclusion

Island Community Chorus
A summer concert at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs featuring the Island Community Chorus. Photo by Ralph Stewart

By Nis Kildegaard - June 28, 2007

This weekend, just as the summer season opens, the Island Community Chorus concludes another year of singing, presenting its 10th annual concert at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs at 8 pm, Saturday, June 30.

Robert Cleasby is a fan of the choir, and he speaks with a certain authority when he says, "It's a wonderful chorus." Mr. Cleasby, now director of programs for the Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association, served for 18 years as director of the West Bay Chorale and Orchestra in Providence, R.I.

When the Campmeeting Association first invited the chorus to open its summer season a decade ago, Mr. Cleasby says a tradition was born. "I'd been reading about the chorus in the newspapers, but their concerts were always in the off-season. Our idea was to have a presentation the summer people could hear, at the end of the chorus's season. In 1997, they became our opening program, and it's been the same way ever since."

Peter Boak, director of the Island Community Chorus and a resident of Oak Bluffs, says the Tabernacle has a special resonance for him.

"The Tabernacle is one of the landmarks of Martha's Vineyard," he says. "I remember going to the Wednesday night sings there as a kid - now it's fun to be on the other side."

Mr. Boak says that as he began planning the program for this 10th anniversary concert, he was drawn to the notion of a retrospective.

"I got Lorraine St. Pierre, the choir's historian, to lend me copies of all the programs we've sung at the Tabernacle, and I pulled out pieces the choir has enjoyed singing in the past, and pieces that have been hits with the audiences. We've worked so hard at building up our library over the years - this is an opportunity to go back and revisit some of the music that's been on the shelf for a while."

Mr. Boak knows that, in addition to the families and friends of the chorus, the Tabernacle will have a healthy number of summer folk who may know the choir only by its reputation. He acknowledges, "We're really performing for a group of people whom we don't know as intimately as our winter following."

But Mr. Boak believes this musical meeting of the Island's winter and summer communities - at just that moment in the year when one season is ending and the other beginning - has its own magic. "When people ask what we do here in the winter time," he says, "well, this is one of the things that we do. And for those of us in the chorus, it's kind of like the end of school - we sing, and then we say goodbye for two months."

Community Chorus Concert, 8 pm, Saturday, June 30, Tabernacle, Oak Bluffs Campgrounds. Free; donations accepted.

Nis Kildegaard is a contributing writer to The Times.