The First 25 Years of the New Renaissance Singers

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By Linda Sisson

1470128_640357379340870_770967334_nIn 1990 a new choral group was started by a music studio in downtown Bangor operated by Darrell and Nina Rhodes. In 1991 the group decided to become incorporated as an independent, non-profit, and moved into its own rehearsal space. The group’s first artistic director was Bronwyn Kortge. Bronwyn loved early music and the group enthusiastically embraced her suggestion, New Renaissance Singers, for their name. From the beginning, NRS was open to all with no auditions. The first concert they gave in the spring of 1991 was held at John Bapst High School, with the two dozen chorus members sporting pastel colored cummerbunds for the women and bow ties for the men.

For the next few years, NRS rehearsed in a space on the third floor of the building now housing Giacomo’s in the heart of downtown Bangor. Subsequent rehearsal homes included the First Methodist Church in Bangor, the Catholic Church of Brewer, Columbia Street Baptist Church, and the First Congregational Church of Brewer, our current home.1048870_566627436713865_816899593_o

Since those early years, NRS has performed in a wide variety of venues including area churches, assisted living facilities, the Bangor Library, the Cyrus Pavilion Theater in Orono, on a Fourth of July parade float, and even in a rock concert with Foreigner in Rockport. For the last few years NRS has also provided choral music for the Hospice Memorial Service.

Nancy Averill, a current member who has been part of the NRS for all twenty-five years recalls that the group sang a lot of early music in the beginning, practiced year-round, and gave four concerts a year! A founding member, Roxanne Munksgaard, fondly recalls an early concert featuring madrigals performed in Renaissance costumes at the Cyrus Pavilion.

Since then the range of music sung by NRS has been eclectic: an early Halloween Concert included a song written by Bronwyn called “Macbeth’s Witches” with lyrics by Shakespeare; a few years later the group performed Faure’s Requiem under the direction of Ann Mills. Today Molly Webster continues to select music from the whole spectrum of choral singing from early music (16th and 17th centuries) to contemporary compositions. The twenty-fifth anniversary concert includes an early madrigal, music from the 18th and 19th centuries by Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven, and three contemporary pieces. Two of the newer pieces are exquisite choral settings by young composers of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Emily Dickinson. The third new piece is a setting of a poem “Everyone Sang” by Siegfried Sassoon and was composed by Andrew Hirst especially for the NRS 25th anniversary.drew and group3

A choral director selects music, coaches the sections in learning their parts, teaches vocal techniques and inspires the chorus to create a beautiful, blended sound. Since 1991 the New Renaissance Singers have enjoyed the leadership of many talented Directors:

  • 1991-1993      Bronwyn Kortge
  • 1994                Steve Grives
  • 1994-1995      Lenore Hample
  • 1996                Ann Mills
  • 1997-2003      Sandra Blanchette
  • 2004                Steve Estey
  • 2004-2009     Laura Green Estey
  • 2010-2012       Drew Albert
  • 2012-2016       Molly Webster

Since 2006 NRS has been accompanied faithfully and joyfully by Dora Rexrode, making this year her tenth anniversary!

NRS has also been supported by the work of its Board of Directors. Under the leadership of current Board President, Tricia Griffith, in 2013 NRS started a scholarship fund to encourage the participation of young people in choral singing, by providing scholarship support to Bangor Area Children’s Choir and the University of Maine’s summer youth music program. Past President Pamela Ware says, “It’s a big job and Tricia is terrific at doing it.”

With each new member who joins us in song, our lives are enriched. Marie Harrington, the second person who has been with the chorus for all twenty-five years and has served on our Board, says the best part of singing with NRS has been all the wonderful people she has known through the years. We are always welcoming of new voices, so if you like to sing and are willing to make the commitment to weekly rehearsals, please join us and become part of the next 25 years of NRS history.

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New Renaissance Singers Fall-Winter Season Begins!

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For Immediate Release

Date: September 3, 1014

For More Information: Molly Webster (207) 992-7870 or nrsingers@gmail.com

NRS rehearsals startingRehearsal Season Starts for New Renaissance Singers

On Tuesday, September 9, at 6:30 pm, the New Renaissance Singers will gather at the First Congregational Church at 35 Church Street in Brewer for the first rehearsal of this season. The choral group always welcomes new members, and the first few rehearsals are open to anyone who wants to watch and listen, to see if they are interested in joining!

New Renaissance Singers (NRS) is a non-audition, four-part community chorus serving Central and Eastern Maine for the past twenty-three years. The members of NRS have varied musical backgrounds, are all ages, and perform diverse repertoire from all genres & styles. NRS is governed by a volunteer board of directors and is supported by member dues and community sponsors. NRS Board President, Tricia Griffith states, “We welcome all who share a love of singing, and believe that in uniting our voices in song we can nurture a love of music in our community and beyond.”

NRS Director Molly Webster has degrees in Music Education and Vocal Performance, and an MM in Choral Conducting. As a professional vocal instructor, Molly frequently adds insights and instruction on the art and mechanics of singing to each rehearsal. In addition, this year rehearsals will include periodic lessons on how to read music to help encourage those who love to sing, but might find the idea of reading music intimidating.

Accompanied by professional pianist Dora Rexrode, NRS stages two performances of their winter concert in early December and another set of performances for a spring concert in May. In addition to these public performances they enjoy singing in area nursing homes, as well as at area benefit concerts.

Bangor Area Children's Choir Scholarship GiftA portion of the concert proceeds will go into the new NRS Student Scholarship Fund as part of New Renaissance Singers’ mission to nurture a love of music in the community and beyond. Last year, NRS was able to donate a scholarship to the Bangor Area Children’s Choir. This year the group plans to donate scholarships at both the winter concert and the spring concert, and welcomes suggestions for future beneficiaries, especially in the area of vocal music.

If you would like to join New Renaissance Singers, sponsor their scholarship fund, or advertise in their concert programs, you can contact Director Molly Webster at (207) 992-7870, or email nrsingers@gmail.com. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nrsingers, or visit their website, www.nrsingers.com.

Spring Rehearsal Season Starting Up!

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Membership drive poster 2014Tuesday, January 14th, New Renaissance Singers begins their spring season with an open rehearsal from 6:30 – 8:30pm at Columbia Street Baptist Church! All voices and experience levels are most welcome!

NRS is a multi-generational, non-auditioned choir that comes together each and every Tuesday (6:30 – 8:30pm) throughout the spring and fall to join in a shared love of singing and making music as a community.

We have some amazing music planned for this semester including pieces by W.A. Mozart, Thomas Morley, John Rutter, Z. Randall Stroope, Joshua Shank and more…a little bit of something for everyone!

Come check out a rehearsal and see what it’s all about!!!