Beloved director makes a joyful exit
BRATTLEBORO - For a final farewell filled with mixed emotions, music director Susan Dedell chose the joyful Poulenc's Gloria and Mozart's Vespers for her last time leading the Brattleboro Concert Choir this Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20. But Dedell will step down from the podium feeling good about what she has accomplished at the Brattleboro Music Center since she began her position as music director there in 1989.
Originally from Ann Arbor, Mich.,when visiting the area she found it to be beautiful, particularly the Rock River. Already familiar with the Marlboro Music Festival, she found it appealing that the area was a magnet for the arts of all sorts.
In 1982 she and her 1- -year-old son and her then-husband moved to the area. Armed with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan, had studied piano with Charles Fisher and Gyorgy Sandor, plus had choral assistant to Maynard Klein at the University of Michigan on her resume, she was put in touch with Cathy Stockman, founder of the Brattleboro Music Center. She landed a job as a piano teacher on the BMC faculty.
Blanche Moyse then hired her to also help with rehearsals. When Stockman left as director of the Brattleboro Concert Choir, Dedell was asked to step in. Dedell was eager to do it, but up until that point the directorship wasn't funded, it was a volunteer position, so she bargained her way into a paycheck.
The first year membership doubled. She attributes it in part to her being young, encouraging younger people to join in, and in large part due to the programming. The first thing she had added was Mozart Requiem, accompanied by an orchestra, performed in the prestigious Persons Auditorium at Marlboro College. It was a success because " well it's Mozart," she said.
Eventually, BMC raised enough through fundraising as the programs got bigger and better. Dedell slowly transformed the chorus into a financially viable organization.
"I saw the potential and need in the community that was willing to join. This area attracts artists because of the music festival and other art events. Art begets art. I am always tapping into that," she said. The concert choir gave regular singers an opportunity to play great music at a higher level.
When planning an upcoming program her goal is to zone in on, "What did I want the chorus to learn?'
What style do I want to introduce?" She said she works from the gut, finding what would be interesting or fun for her because if it is not fun for her, she can't translate that fun for her chorus.
When asked what has been her favorite part of her position over the years she said, "I love teaching and interacting with people. I love human nature and I always love to share and communicate tips and skills to experience those break-through moments. I love the transformation that happens at the end of the semester. Some of the best moments are in rehearsal."
Do not despair, Dedell is not going far. She is just taking time to explore other ideas. She loves her work. "Part of my heart is really sad — I love the people I work with — but I feel good about the future for them, and it is time. I'm looking forward to exploring and to do some emotional sorting out."
She will continue to teach at BMC and at St. Michael's Episcopal Church where she is the music director and will continue presenting exciting programs under the umbrella of "Winged Productions" that she co-founded with her present husband Paul Dedell. Winged Productions presents a series of events that aims to explore basic animating questions about life that lie at the heart of the human experience through musical performances, theatrical productions, visual art, workshops, and lectures. Programming in the past has included the Mystery Plays, concerts, collaboration with puppeteers and authors and with the Retreat.
Going forward, Dedell feels she accomplished her goal of building up the BCC as a vibrant, healthy, functioning organization by empowering people to step up at every bend. "I feel good about that." She said, "'Perfect love casts out fear.'" she quoted, "This is a great mantra to experience. We can feel good that we've done our work."
"I am grateful to the generosity of my friends and professional colleagues who have helped me grow into this position. Kathy Andrew, Barbara Wright, and Judith Serkin deserve some the credit also."
When asked if she will be able to keep it together at the last concert she said, "Got to — got a job to do."
As always, a professional.
Dedell is keeping mum about who will be stepping into her shoes, her only comment, "I'm pleased with their decision."
She will be missed.
The concerts Poulenc's Gloria and Mozart's Vespers, featuring soloists soprano Junko Wataname, alto Justina Golden, tenor Peter Shea, and bass Charles Mays, Jr., will be held at Persons Auditorium in Marlboro on Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, at 4 p.m.
Advance tickets are on $18, $10 students, with tickets at the door at $20. $10 students, available from the Brattleboro Music Center, 802-257-4523, or at bmc.vt.org. BMC is located at 72 Blanche Moyse Way.
Dedell said of this program, "Many actors would agree that it is harder to play a nuanced hero than a villain, at least as far as the superficial presentation is concerned. And the same is true for music. It takes a composer of musical genius and personal depth to fully portray that most sought after — and yet elusive — sensation: joy."
Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261
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