Maestra Howlett to close FCC’s 49th season with ‘Peace & Joy’ concert
Phyllis A.S. Boros |

A sense of great anticipation surrounds the Fairfield County Chorale as it sets its sights on a golden anniversary celebration next season — with a new artistic director at its helm.

But before the group reaches that milestone, there’s one more concert in its 49th season — and conducting will be the final candidate for the coveted director’s post.

Setting the stage for next season, the FCC will present “Music of Peace and Joy,” Saturday, May 5, in Norwalk. The ensemble will be under the baton of guest conductor Christine R. Howlett, assistant professor and director of choral activities at Vassar College where she conducts the Vassar College Women’s Chorus and Vassar College Choir, and teaches music theory and voice.

So far this season, FCC audiences have seen the conducting techniques of Eugene Sirotkine, founder of the New York Metamorphoses Orchestra, and David Rosenmeyer, assistant conductor of the New York Oratorio Society and music director of the Chorale and University Singers at New York University.

The three finalists were chosen from a pool of about 70 candidates, according to John Parkinson, the FCC’s executive director.

Whoever is chosen will be responsible for leading the FCC into a new era, he said, adding that the new artistic director will need to be a “strong leader capable of energizing the chorale while raising the level of its artistry.” The nonprofit FCC, operated by a board of directors, is expected to announce its choice by the end of May.

Parkinson pointed out that this season has been a bittersweet one for the organization as it conducted its search for a successor to the group’s legendary maestro, the Swiss-born Johannes Somary. Somary — who collapsed at his New York home on Dec. 27, 2010, after suffering a massive stroke — died Feb. 1, 2011, at age 75. He had been the FCC’s artistic director since 1975.

On Saturday’s program is Haydn’s Paukenmesse (known as the Mass in the Time of War) and Magnificat from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (son of J.S. Bach). A grand production is planned, featuring a chorale of more than 100 auditioned volunteer singers from throughout Fairfield County and the 26-piece Fairfield County Chorale Orchestra.

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