A choir, for us: for the weary of the pandemic, Cantate Carlisle has a song and a celebration


When an art director’s long-term tenure comes to an end, the organization may worry about what follows.

Not so for Cantata Carlisle, the choral group established and directed by Cheryl Parsons for over 30 years.

When Parsons retired in 2020, the choral group turned to someone many singers knew and trusted. Michelle DiBona Trefren, who accepted the baton, has long been a conductor, pianist, organist, singer and music teacher.

“I could not be more honored to hold this position and to fill the shoes of a legacy of great choral music in Carlisle,” said Trefren. “When I learned the overture I was ecstatic and I knew it would fit perfectly with my passions: leading and inspiring musicians to make great choral music at a high level that can bless a community. “

Concurrently, Trefren is Associate Cantor at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carlisle and Resident Music Director at the Carlisle Regional Performing Arts Center.

“Cheryl has demonstrated excellent leadership due to her musicality, attention to detail and concern for the needs of singers,” said Taylor Andrews, choir member and also chair of the board. “We are fortunate that Michelle is following her example with competence and empathy. Both brought expertise, energy and pleasure to rehearsals, resulting in exceptional performances. “

Andrews joined Cantata Carlisle in 1996. Lawyer and chief public advocate, he previously sang in a church choir.

“With my heavy workload, the Carlisle Cantata rehearsals were a form of therapy and joy,” he said.

One of Cantate Carlisle’s strengths lies in the dedication of the singers. The oldest member is Beverly Mancke, who joined the choir in its early days. A first soprano, she started singing solos at the age of 8 but now prefers to be part of a group.

“My husband John saw the audition announcement and suggested I give it a try,” Mancke said. “I continued to audition every year.”

But the opportunity to sing great music was just one of the reasons to stay.

“I have met and befriended many wonderful people,” Mancke said. “Tuesday nights became my chance to put everything else aside and enjoy learning and singing all kinds of music. Since 1990, we have sung many different pieces of music and performed a wide variety of concert themes from Bach to Broadway.

In addition to the adult group, the choral organization presents Cantata Young Voices for singers in grades four to eight in the region.

Beth Kammerer is in her fifth year as director of Cantata Young Voices. She is a retired music teacher who taught choir for 20 years in schools in Hawaii.

“Singing is one of my passions, and I’m very excited to share my love of music with young singers,” she said.

Cantate Carlisle’s diverse members range from 23 to 80 years old, with an average of around 40 years. As in the past under Parsons’ direction, the repertoire is diverse, said Trefren.

Some highlights were works by Brahms, all sung in German, Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Songs” in Hebrew and “Ceremony of Carols”, composed by Benjamin Britten and written in Old English.

The occasional trips out of the country are part of the joys of singing with Cantate Carlisle. So far, the group has traveled to England, Scotland, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and Canada. Occasionally, these trips provide opportunities to sing with local choral groups.

The next stop for Cantate Carlisle is their winter concert, which takes place in early December. The postponed 30th anniversary gala is scheduled for May 7.

“With just one rehearsal as a group last year, the choir embarked on recording songs as a whole, masked and distant in a large, well-ventilated space,” Trefren explained. “Hearing the ensemble all together, for the first time since I took on the role of artistic director, was certainly thrilling. “

“Convergence”, Cantata Carlisle’s winter concert, takes place December 4 and 5 at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 21 S. Bedford St., Carlisle. For more information visit www.cantatecarlisle.org.

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