Former York Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Hart Baker took the helm of the York Symphony Chorus and the York Symphony Chamber Singers in 2006. In June, Baker moved away and Randy Day was elected interim chorus conductor. He recently talked about the new post.
Q: When did you join the chorus?
A: Dr. Baker, our former symphony director, had called me because the previous accompanist for the York Symphony Chorus wanted to make a change. He asked me if I was available. I had worked with him as accompanist for the Harrisburg Choral Society for about two years. We worked together in the symphony, where I've been a violinist since 2001.
Q: You are now the conductor. How has that transition been?
A: I probably had more trepidation than the singers themselves. (Laughs) The board made a unanimous choice to elect me. I knew I had some good support. We had about 30 to 45 days to plan two major concerts for the season and to decide what direction to go, since I am the interim director.
Q: How did you get interested in music?
A: I started singing publicly when I was 6. I sang solos and duets with my father, who was a tenor, at our church. At 10, I started accompanying the adult choir. At 11, I started playing the organ for church and have been doing that for "¦ 47 years. Along the way, I was given the opportunity when I lived in California to work with elementary school education and got involved developing curriculum. When I moved to Florida in 1988, I switched from being more of a music educator in schools (to being) more involved with church work and studio work.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in South Carolina, but I was adopted and raised in Florida. For personal reasons, I needed to make a move. I had someone give me an invitation to come up and visit Pennsylvania in May of 2000. I've never left. (I work with) Trinity United Church of Christ in Hanover.
Q: When did you decide to audition for YSO?
A: In 2001, I was asked to come and sub for somebody in one of the children's concerts that Dr. Baker would do for the "¦ York County school system. That generated some professional connections and friendships. A year later or so, they were having open auditions. I auditioned, so I would be a regular player.
Q: What are highlights of your time with the symphony?
A: The York symphony, chorus and chamber singers ... seeks to develop community-based singers and players from the earliest ages on up -- fostering the arts for the community. The other thing that is a very important component for a community-based group ... is that it's very much a family. It's been a wonderful group of people and organization to be associated with.
Q: The holiday chorus concert has become a tradition. How did you plan this year's event?
A: I thought of the fact that many families and individuals have various Christmas cards that they'll send. Sometimes, you get a variety of cards that -- for the artwork on the front or the humor -- are very individualistic and they make a statement that's unforgettable. Everything from the "Hallelujah Chorus" to a couple of pieces that might be more somber -- the whole theme is that we get to sing our Christmas message. In singing "¦ we could hit a lot of different styles from different countries (and) different decades. Because it's a family concert, I wrote a piece "¦ that's specifically for the children. There are supposed to be displays of ... Christmas cards.
Q: What are your goals for the chorus?
A: We're also in the process of interviewing candidates to be the music director and conductor for the symphony. I talked with Lawrence Golan (before his candidate concert with YSO Nov. 23). I said to him "¦ "we want to continue "¦ to sing with the symphony." He seemed to be very open to that. I'm hoping that the other candidates will find that in their skill set (and) their desires for the future. (Golan) came to see (the chorus Nov. 18) and he had a 40-minute question-and-answer session. The other two candidates will do that as well. I think having those open forums with the candidates lets us get our first impression. (It) lets us hear their heart and mission (and) how they would relate to the York community.
Contact Erin McCracken at 717-771-2051.
If you go
The York Symphony Chorus presents its Family Holiday Concert 3 p.m. Dec. 8 at First Presbyterian Church, 225 E. Market St., York. The show is titled "A Singing Christmas Card." Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. For details and tickets, call 717-846-1111 or visit mystrandcapitol.org.
Read more about the symphony and chorus: www.ydr.com/remember
Find more holiday events and concerts: www.yorkblog.com/flipside