The Merrick Chorale — a community favorite — will make its return to the stage this holiday season, following a hiatus last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the new musical direction of Cantor Dan Rosenfeld, of Temple Beth Am in Merrick, the group is looking to recruit new members as it plans performances in the coming months. It is now scheduled to perform on Dec. 19, at 2:30 p.m., at the Freeport Memorial Library.
Rosenfeld is a classically trained musician who earned a music degree from Hamilton College and his cantorial degree from Hebrew Union College. He has been familiar with the chorale, and known its former directors, for many years.
“My connection to the group began roughly 16 years ago,” Rosenfeld said. “I had brought the Temple Beth Am adult choir to the Brotherhood Concert.” The Brotherhood Concert is a large, multi-background performance that takes place around Thanksgiving and usually features music groups from local school districts.
“I knew people there from a church in Manhasset who were part of the Merrick Chorale,” Rosenfeld explained. “The connection grew, and within the last five or six years I was invited to sing with them a few times.
“I am looking forward to it,” he added of his new leadership. “I perform religious music, but the group is very into performing music in medical and interfaith settings. I am very much into doing interfaith music.”
The chorale was founded in 1981, and Barbara Picard, the group’s librarian, was one of its original members. “There was a Merrick Symphony,” Picard recounted. “Charles Gouse, who was their leader and the music director of the North Shore School District, wanted to perform the Verdi ‘Requiem.’”
Verdi’s “Requiem” is “generally performed with a huge chorus,” Picard said. “They decided if it was the Merrick Symphony, they ought to have a couple of Merrick singers. They had the first meeting in September of 1981 at the Brookside School. The rest is history.”
The chorale currently has about 15 members, and the hope is that it will expand in anticipation of upcoming performances. “We always had a holiday concert at the North Merrick Library,” Katherine Tiffany, the group’s president, said. “We had done a classical concert at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Wantagh. We’re looking to expand that — maybe go into nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other places as well.” The chorale is usually accompanied by a pianist, and sometimes a guest musician sits in as well.
The group has performed a variety of music over the years, including classical pieces, Broadway favorites, light opera and pop. Just before the pandemic, it had a concert of Disney music. Moving forward, Tiffany said, it will likely do more lighter classical pieces.
Rosenfeld added that the chorale has also performed religious pieces — a tradition he hopes to continue, as its members are from varying religious backgrounds.
“The directors have always brought Jewish music to the group,” he said. “This is a tradition I’m going to continue, and our repertoire will reflect that. This is a chance for me to realize and take forward my endeavors in interfaith music — and serve the community with music.”
Picard noted that the chorale has had the opportunity to take part in a few unique performances. “One year, Andy Williams — or maybe his manager — was looking for backup singers” for an upcoming concert, Picard recalled of the late popular music legend. “He wanted a local chorus, and whoever they had been speaking to thought of the Merrick Chorale.”
In addition to Williams, the group has also performed with Paul Anka and Kenny Rogers.
Picard spoke highly of the chorale’s performances. “I think I’m unusual in that I enjoy learning music — I enjoy the act of learning a piece,” she said. “And in all the years that we’ve been performing regularly — a classical concert every year — we have never repeated anything.”
The group expects to begin rehearsing again in October, on Tuesday nights from 7:30 to 9:30, at Temple Beth Am. New members are welcome, although Tiffany suggested that they call her in advance. She can be reached at (516) 578-7555.
The chorale has members of all ages. “We prefer adults, so 18 and older,” Tiffany said. “The only real requirement is that they love choral singing.”
“You just pay attention to the music — it’s all because of the music,” Picard said. “It’s the act of singing and learning with the others, note by note. I would’ve never had the opportunity to learn this music if not for the Merrick Chorale.”