Frances Elwood '23
Dec 9, 2022
Four times a year, in the Irvine Memorial Chapel, the Mercersburg Area Community Chorus & Orchestra performs. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend one of these performances, the Christmas Concert on Saturday evening. Though I arrived early, the chapel was already filled to the brim with all manner and type of people save one; in my cursory glance through the pews, I didn’t see any Mercersburg Academy students.
I took note of this incongruity before grabbing one of the last available seats in the very back of the chapel. On stage, the ladies all wore the same shade of cranberry red with delicate strings of pearls and the men wore sharp black suits with bow ties. It seemed to me they were innumerable but according to the program there was a total of 103 singers. The professional orchestra added another 30 members to the ranks–this was a massive musical force on our doorstep, yet it seemed to me no students from the academy were taking advantage of it.
As the instruments tuned one final time, the audience applauded in anticipation. Then the first song began, sharp and bright–the first movement of twelve in Gloria in D Major. Late-comers lingered in the aisles, as transfixed by the euphonious yet thunderous choral performance as the rest of the crowd but unable to find a seat to rest in. The soloists, Elisabeth Turchi and Leah Serr Gibson, were triumphant, as were Mat Levine, the associate conductor, and Jim Brinson, who played Fugue in G Minor by Bach.
As the performance went on, I couldn’t help but wonder how I hadn’t heard about this concert before. Not that I'm particularly in the loop, but I would think for such a meticulously planned and semi-professional concert, there would have been more advertising to the student body. Additionally due to the fact that the entire institution was founded and is led by former Mercersburg music director, Richard Rotz.
Later that night, after the concert had ended, I checked Mercersburg’s various instagram accounts; there was no mention of this concert anywhere, not on the official page nor the student activities page. And sure enough, there was no mention in the SAC events email either. If you wanted to find any information about this event, you had to go to the town’s Instagram page or scroll to that often neglected area of Veracross which lists out every event happening in tiny text.
It seems to me that this chorus and the concerts it puts on are a staple of the wider Mercersburg community. According website of the Mercersburg Area Community Chorus, “...the Chorus has become an important part of the regional music scene,” and that choral members “come from throughout the tri-state area and the common bond is the simple joy of singing.” When I spoke to him, Rotz proudly disclosed to me that the chorus features “...members from at least 4 counties in Pennsylvania plus many from Maryland and West Virginia.”
If we, as an academy want to further integrate ourselves with the Mercersburg community as a whole, it seems to me important that we take a greater part in the current, long-standing traditions of the community. The Community Chorus performances are not only polished musical events worthwhile to hear in their own right but also a way to connect with our neighbors and foster a greater sense of community. Sadly, the Mercersburg Community Chorus isn’t putting on another performance this year, but happily, they will be hosting two concerts in April on the 29th and the 30th at the chapel. If you can, I’d highly recommend marking it down on your calendars now so you can experience the brilliant music that I did.