New choral director sings choir’s praises

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By Renee Plant, Contributing Writer

The Northborough Area Community Chorus Photo/submitted
The Northborough Area Community Chorus
Photo/submitted

Northborough – The Northborough Area Community Chorus (NACC) has welcomed its first new director since the group’s inception, and rehearsals have started off on a high note.

This spring, the NACC bid farewell to founder Anthony J. Volpe, after 47 years under his direction. Volpe has been replaced by Elinor A. Armsby, a Massachusetts native with more than 20 years’ experience working with various choruses.

Armsby received her undergraduate training in voice at Indiana University, and has a master’s degree in choral conducting and music history from Temple University. Though she grew up in Newton, Armsby has primarily worked in the Philadelphia area until her recent relocation to Massachusetts. While the location has changed, the song remains the same for Armsby, who said she looks forward to continuing her work with amateur singers.

“I always use the word ‘amateur’ in the sense of meaning someone who loves what they do, rather than a paid professional,” she said.

In the past, Armsby said, she has worked with community choral groups similar to NACC, including church choirs. Coincidentally, it was through her position as director of music at the First Church in Marlborough that she learned of the opening with NACC.

“I actually found out about the position from an organist at church who had heard Mr. Volpe would be retiring,” she said. “I contacted them, and was thrilled to be appointed [as director]. It’s a great fit for me, and I hope it will be a positive change for the members of the chorus.”

Armsby is joined by a new piano accompanist, Mark Bartlett, who replaced former accompanist David L. Rose. Bartlett earned his degree in piano performance from Northwestern University, and went on to study pianos at the New England Conservatory. According to Armsby, she has been impressed with Bartlett since first meeting him over the summer.

“I hadn’t worked with Mark before, but he is an extremely capable pianist,” she said. “We are fortunate to have him.”

Despite the recent changes, it was business as usual when NACC began rehearsing on Sept. 11, with chorus members gathering to learn new music. Armsby said it’s her goal to make the experience both fun and rewarding for members.

“There will be some challenging pieces, and some more familiar pieces, so it doesn’t feel too hard,” she said. “I like to keep an attitude of being encouraging and positive with my feedback. The hope is members will grow so they feel confident come concert time.”

Although a date has not yet been set, Armsby said the show is expected to take place in early December. This year’s theme is “Peace on Earth,” and will feature holiday music from around the world, as well as popular favorites that Armsby said are fun to sing.

“People have been leaving rehearsals with smiles on their faces,” she said.

Rehearsals will take place Tuesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Algonquin Regional High School, 79 Bartlett St., Northborough. Chorus member Mary Sullivan, who has been singing with NACC for more than 20 years, said all are welcome to join.

“We’re always looking for new voices,” she said. “There’s a great camaraderie among the group. As long as you love to sing, we’re happy to have you.”