Sussex County Institution hits the stage

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    SUSSEX COUNTY-For more than 50 years, the voices of the Sussex County Oratorio Society have been filling the country air with music. The chorus' 37 members come from all parts of the county. President Annette Veydovec of Andover has been with the group more than 30 years and has held various offices including her present position for the last three years. Longevity is a key factor in the make-up of the choral group as several members are long-time participants. "I like the group because we all get along," said Veydovec, who sings soprano. "It is a compatible group, and it is a diverse group. We have some trained voices and some not so trained, but we all blend together." Their ages and interests are diverse. "Some are teachers, some actors, and a few of us are retired," she said. "We take our music seriously; once we get started, we buckle down and get serious." Veydovec's favorite selections from the upcoming Christmas concert that will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 9 in Christ Episcopal Church, Newton, are Schubert's "Magnificat," contemporary Ukrainian carols, and an updated arrangement of "Jingle Bells." She loves the music of Bach because "despite its complexity and the fact that there is always something that you don't expect, it is singable." As the oldest member of the chorus, Veydovec recruited its newest and youngest member, Alicia Sullivan, a recent graduate of Westminster Choir College in Princeton. Now living in Greendell, Sullivan teaches music to K-8 at the Green Hills School. Sullivan finds the chosen repertoire "challenging but also very beautiful." The music is some "you don't hear a lot, and it's nice to do what is different." Bass Fred Muller, whose favorite piece from the concert is by Mendelssohn, is the librarian at the Halsted Middle School in Newton. Many of the chorus members also sing in their church choir and community theater. Retired printer Dick Butera has been singing bass with the group for 22 years and has served in many capacities during his tenure. He is presently on the board and prepares all the programs for the concerts. As a member of the Cornerstone Playhouse, he has appeared in "South Pacific," "Annie Get Your Gun," and "Guys and Dolls." "I love singing, and this is a great group," he said. Director Al Kopacka, who has been conducting the oratorio society for eight years, has a Bachelor's in Music Education from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va. and regularly attends seminars at Westminster Choir College. He is also director of music at First Presbyterian Church in Washington, where he conducts six choirs n three voice and three handbell n in a graduated program that includes kindergarten through adult. His wife, Vickie, a graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, accompanies the chorus on both organ and piano. In addition to that role, she teaches piano and voice at Studio 46 in Hackettstown. When not engaged in musical pursuits, the Kopackas operate a specialty store, "What in the World," that imports hand crafted merchandise from around the globe. The store is located at Riverside Plaza in Hackettstown. Kopacka selects the music for each concert "thematically." The winter program is 19th century Christmas music, and "we try to round the theme out with music from various countries and various styles with some truly classical." Kopacka added, we are "trying to find something to please everyone in the audience." Voice placement sessions are held rather than auditions to "hear quality of the voice, experience of the singer, and to be certain that the individual will be able to assimilate into the group," said the director. "We don't want to discourage singers; we're a community service." These sessions will be held privately January 17 and 24, 7:30 p.m. at the Christ Episcopal Church, 100 Main Street, Newton. For more information, call Al Kopacka 908-850-8942 or 908-850-1179.