New conductor takes reins of Northbrook Community Choir
Updated: January 9, 2013 8:18AM
The Northbrook Community Choir rings in the New Year with a new choral conductor.
Jennifer Whiting, conductor for seven years of the DeKalb Festival Chorus, takes up her duties Jan. 14, when the 50-voice ensemble resumes its weekly Monday night rehearsals after the holiday break.
“We’re going to be heading into new musical territory,” said Whiting, who accompanies choirs at Larkin High School and South Elgin High School and takes the reins from Susan Young, founder and director of the ensemble for 24 years.
The ensemble began as an adult choir with about 20 teachers, parents and others in School District No. 28 where Young was director of the Northbrook Junior High School choir. She called the group the Y’All Come Choir, and she meant it. There would be no auditions, try-outs or voice checks; anyone who loved to sing was encouraged to join
After Young retired from District 28 in 2003, the group was invited to align with the Northbrook Park District in what she calls a “seamless transition.” Its name was changed about two years ago, but come one-come all remains its guiding principle.
“I am committed to maintaining the honored tradition of the choir,” Whiting explained, “but I have a passion for leading singers into satisfying musical experiences, so we are going to stretch things a bit.”
Indeed, she has chosen an interesting start for the choir’s spring concert, to be held at 7 p.m. Friday, May 31 in the Northbrook Park District’s 268-seat Leisure Center. The program, titled “Chiaroscuro: Light and Shadow,” features the 14 minute tone painting “Dark Night of the Soul” by contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, who is now based in the United States. Works by Randall Thompson, Morten Lauridsen, Robert A. Harris, Paul Halley and others will be sung, accompanied by string quartet, piano and percussion. Pianist will be the choir’s regular accompanist and assisting artist Beverly Sheridan, who has been with the ensemble since it was founded.
“We’ve received our spring repertoire already,” confirmed Adina Schoenberger of Northbrook, who has sung second alto in the choir for eight seasons. “I know it will be challenging, but exciting, too.
“The choir has so many warm, genuine people,” she added. We are all there for the joy of singing.”
After Whiting’s graduation from Rockford College, she earned a master of music degree in choral conducting from Northern Illinois University. Since then she has worked as a music educator, a adjunct instructor at local colleges, a junior high and high school choral director, a church music director and a private teacher of piano and voice.
She takes on a choir which has achieved significant successes. In addition to regular performances at Northbrook Court, the Northbrook Public Library and the Evanston Symphony’s annual holiday concert, the choir has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as given a concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. It has also appeared twice at Carnegie Hall in New York City, singing world premieres of pieces by composer and conductor Dr. John Leavitt.
The choir scored a particular triumph Dec. 2 when it presented a Winter Holiday concert with the Northbrook Symphony at Techny. For that concert it was 80-voices strong, adding singers from the church choirs of St. Norbert and Our Lady of the Brook, both in Northbrook, and St. Patrick Church in Lake Forest.
Chosen for the Northbrook post after being one of five finalists, Whiting’s love of choral music started early. “The transcendence of choral music first struck me when I was in grade school,” she recalled. “Sitting on the gymnasium floor in three groups we sang ‘do, mi, sol’ and made a major chord. It was a revelation to my ears, and I was hooked on choral music from that magic moment onward.
“I believe in the power of music to make our lives richer and the world a better place,” she concluded. “Choirs are healthful and valuable assets to their communities, and I derive great satisfaction in helping vocal groups achieve their highest potential.”
Choir founder Young is particularly pleased that she was named Conductor Emeritus of the Northbrook Community Choir. “It has been a wonderful almost 25 years,” she declared, “it is just the right time now to enjoy the next 25 guided by the capable hands of Jennifer Whiting.”