Astoria Choir rings through its community
by Heather Senison
May 09, 2012 | 1137 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The sound of 55 choral voices is ringing through Western Queens, as the Astoria Symphonic Choir performs around the area, sharing the beauty of classical music.

Founded in 2010 by Adam Eggleston, the choir performs one or two programs per season alone, but focuses mainly on performing with the Astoria Symphony Orchestra.

A music educator and choral conductor originally from outside Philadelpia, Eggleston came to New York four years ago, settled in Astoria and became a full-time teacher, conducting the glee club of about 200 boys in the Upper East Side private school he works in.

But he wanted to get involved in music in his community and outside of his job, so he reached out to the Astoria Music Society and developed the idea to start a local choir.

In its debut season, the choir performed George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” and Joseph Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass.”

“The biggest benefit is that you get to sing really great music,” Eggleston said of the choir in an interview last week. “You get to sing masterpieces by some of the greatest composers that ever lived and you get to sing with an orchestra.”

The choir rehearses on Monday evenings, from September through May, at the Trinity Lutheran Church on 31st Avenue and 37th Street in Astoria.

Due to the sense of community and the bond the group is forming, Eggleston said many members will go out for a beer after rehearsal to socialize with each other.

“When I started the choir I wasn't quite sure how it was going to turn out,” he said. “It turned out to be mostly people in their 20s and 30s that lived here in the neighborhood that didn't know each other before the choir, and we've become great friends.”

Steven Shmerler, a choir member, moved to Astoria from Los Angeles in February 2011, and joined the choir as a way to get to know his new community.

“My brother is a member and I had moved to Astoria and I was looking to integrate and I met a lot of his friends that were in the choir, all lovely, and I had been to a couple of performances and it just seemed like the perfect way to get involved,” he said.

“It's an amazing group of people,” Shmerler added, noting that the choir members are diverse in ages and backgrounds. “They're smart, they're bright, articulate and good musicians and just fun to be around.”

He said another benefit from the choir is in-depth learning about classical music.

“I'm not just singing it, I'm actually studying it,” Shmerler said.

He said his favorite performance so far was the Shakespeare & Song program the group held at Trinity Lutheran Church in March.

The choir will perform an encore of the same performance as part of Church of the Redeemer's Sunday Concert Series on May 20 at 6 p.m.

Eggleston said the group's proudest moment so far was at Saint Joseph's Catholic Church on 43th Street and 30th Avenue in Astoria in December, where the group performed “Mid-Winter Songs” by Morten Lauridsen and premiered a suite from an opera by Matthew Harris, a New York City composer.

In the future, Eggleston said he hopes to bring more members into the group, as symphonic choirs usually have closer to 100 members, and build up a larger audience. He also wants to ensure that the choir lives on, should his life take him somewhere else, he said.

“The larger the group, the greater the magnitude of works we can do, as far as the kind of repertoire,” Eggleston said, adding that “the more people that are involved, the more people that are coming to see concerts.”

But, he said, “the main goal is to serve the Astoria community.”

The choir will host another concert at St. Joseph's on Sunday, June 3, at 5 p.m., where it will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's “Requiem” with the Astoria Symphony Orchestra.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit AstoriaChoir.org.

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