BUCKHANNON – The holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy music, but those who love listening to music year-round will be excited for an upcoming performance featuring members of West Virginia’s premier men’s chorus – including Jeremiah Smallridge, who is the choral instructor at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.
The recently formed Maestri Vocal will present their next concert on Sunday, Jan. 19 at the First Presbyterian Church in Fairmont from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The church is located at 301 Jackson St. and the folk song themed performance will be “From the Moors to the Mountains: A Concert of Folk Songs from the British Isles and the Appalachian Mountains.”
Smallridge said the group is relatively new.
“Basically, some colleagues, including Seth Stemple at Lewis County High School and Sam Spears at Fairmont State University, started talking about creating an opportunity for professional musicians,” Smallridge said. “So often we play the role of director and teacher and we don’t always have the opportunity to be the performer.”
In August, before their first performance, Maestri Vocal had 12 members. Smallridge said they hope the group grows.
He said the group tries to meet approximately five times before each performance, it’s up to each performer to learn their music on their own.
“It’s nice because we each also have the opportunity to conduct,” Smallridge said. “Not only do we get to perform but we get to learn from one another in a collaborative setting.”
Maestri Vocal’s first performance was in August in Bridgeport and included church-themed music.
Smallridge said he grew up in Buckhannon and is a graduate of Glenville State College with major in music education. He also is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and a minor in dance and theater. He received his master’s degree at Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia and came back to Buckhannon to teach.
“I taught seven years at Academy Elementary School where I taught music,” he said. “I have taught six years at Buckhannon-Upshur High School where I teach choir and theater. Both programs are going very well and are growing.”
He said he feels fortunate to live in a community like Buckhannon, where folks value the arts.
“I do see support from parents and businesses with our school program, and I am also very active with our community theater,” Smallridge said. “I perform for them quite often. It is nice because beyond my work in the school, we have community theater and the community choir. It’s wonderful that we are in an area that values that because I think that is not the case in all of the state.”
Smallridge said he thinks music and the arts are important.
“They follow you all of your life – you don’t outgrow them,” he said. “You can do them at any age. You can sing the rest of your life – there are church choirs, community choirs and it is good for you physically, emotionally and is a good way to have communion with others. I believe very deeply in the value of art and what it can do for us and our communities.”
The Maestri Vocale performance of “From the Moors to the Mountains: A Concert of Folk Songs” is a free concert; however, a free will offering will be taken to help defray the cost of purchasing the music and for the accompanists. The concert will feature folk songs from the British Isles and the Appalachian Mountains.
Additional information about Maestri Vocale is available on Facebook. Their Facebook page is featuring one of their singers each day until their Jan. 19 concert.