'Rochester' debut hailed as musical masterpiece

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The GSCS performs its debut of 'Rochester' at the Governor's Inn last month. (Courtesy photo/GSCS)

ROCHESTER - A nearly ten minute standing ovation followed Granite State Choral Society's performance of "Rochester," which was premiered on March 28 at the Governor's Inn in Rochester at a special Gala event: River Stones, Rails, & Renaissance: A Rochester Retrospective.

Celebrating 40 years of bringing music to the Seacoast, Granite State Choral Society commissioned the new work "Rochester" and presented a live concert debut of the piece with composer Nicholas White in attendance and accompanying on the piano. Directed by Daniel K. Roihl, the chorus and a ten piece chamber orchestra brought the piece to life to the delight of the audience.

"The stars shone brightly tonight," said one attendee. Former director, Paul McGovern concurred, "What a wonderful evening! Congratulations GSCS on your 40th Anniversary and world premiere performance." Founding director of the group, Sylvia Dowst, as well as co-founder Reverend Frank Gulinello's daughter, Lynne Lemay, accompanied by her husband, were also in attendance.

Festivities began with a cocktail reception followed by dinner, 50/50 raffle and live auction. The evening concluded with the performance of this specially commissioned piece. Local magician and entertainer BJ Hickman MC'd the event and delighted the audience with his sense of humor as well as a couple of magic tricks. Sponsors of the Gala event included: The Governor's Inn, Frisbie Memorial Hospital, Digrafika, LLC, BJ Hickman Magic Shows, Sweaty Turtle Entertainment, all of whom contributed to the success of the evening.

What began in 1974 as a community choral group formed to present Handel's Messiah, has changed, grown, and matured into the group now known as the Granite State Choral Society. Under the tutelage and direction of a half a dozen directors, the group has presented two concerts a year for every season. Works presented have not only been classical, but also contemporary, folk, popular, operatic, as well as music from Broadway.

GSCS contracted with Grammy-winning composed Nicholas White, current chair of the Arts and Director of Chapel Music at St. Paul's School in Concord, to compose a brand new musical work especially for the group. This five movement composition celebrates Rochester's history. Not since the early 1900s has a musical piece been created to honor Rochester. As only the second known registered choral society based in Rochester over the last 100 years, GSCS decided to honor the city's history in song to celebrate their 40 years of choral performances. "Rochester" highlights historic persons, events and landmarks of Rochester using original text written specifically for the work by two members of GSCS.

Director Dan Roihl was extremely pleased with the performance, "I must express to you (the chorus) all my deepest and heartfelt radiant gratitude for Saturday's performance. I think we collectively succeeded in honoring the Rochester community (to which we owe our institutional being) in a wonderful way."

Granite State Choral Society will present the piece again on May 15 at the Rochester Opera House at a joint concert with the Strafford Wind Symphony. In Concert with the Strafford Wind Symphony will be a fun filled family evening of choral and instrumental music to delight the senses. This concert will showcase the extraordinary musical legacy that is part of the Lilac City. The Symphony will reprise the Rag, March and Waltz originally commissioned for the 1914 Rochester Fair. The performance will be well worth attending as the history of Rochester in song will be presented. With 65 combined years of making music, these two performing gems are sure to fill the evening with many musical highlights one will not want to miss. Tickets are available online at and at the box office of the Rochester Opera House.

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