The Essex Harmony was formed in October of 2006 by Glenn Mairo. Glenn was an admirer of choral music from the American Colonial period, the so-called "Singing School" era. Many of these composers were itinerant and usually held other jobs like tanner, book binder, inn keeper, etc. The most famous of these was William Billings. The choral music produced during this era is uniquely American in style eschewing the European tradition.
This music would have been lost forever were it not for the Shape Note singers and the Sacred Harp movement in the deep south of our country. Luckily, it survives and flourishes with Sacred Harp groups and Shape Note singers everywhere. The Essex Harmony gives a modern slant to this tradition.
Unfortunately, Glenn passed away at a relatively young age. Glenn's background included his stint as a percussionist with the Air Force Band and said his crowning achievement was conducting both the Air Force and Navy bands during the country's bicentennial. He was an active member of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and an avid collector and copyright holder of music from the Colonial period. We deeply miss his enthusiasm, his extensive knowledge of "Singing School" music, and, the history of the period as well as his devotion to the choral tradition and the perpetuation of this music. We miss you, Glenn!
Before passing, his words to me were, "Tom, let this group evolve", and, as most of our members will agree, I took him at his word.
Our repertoire includes not only music from the Colonial period but now includes music from all eras of American choral music. Lately, we're including in the repertoire the music of young modern American composers like Abbie Betinis, Dan Forrest, Daniel Elder, Scott Gendel and, of course, that rock star of the collegiate choral circuit, Eric Whittaker.
We are primarily a capella but have been accompanied by Julia Elliott on harpsichord and piano, and currently Chad Conlan, a gifted concert pianist, as well as the Da Figaro string quartet. And, kudos to our rehearsal accompanist Pat Callahan. We also relish our amateur status; no one is paid, no dues is taken.
We are now Chorus-in-Residence at The Danvers Art Association and perform mainly in the music conservatory in the home of our patron, John Archer.
Finally, it's always been a pet peeve of mine that it's difficult if not impossible to understand the lyrics of choruses during performances. We rectify that situation by including the lyrics and associated images as part of a PowerPoint presentation projected on a screen during performances. We feel this complements the music and gives the audience a richer perspective.
Myself, I'm an advocate of high tech and have added all music scores on, and I direct from, my 27" WINDOWS MONITOR. Apple, be jealous!
Please check our EVENTS page on this website and come hear us.
SO, WHAT'S MY BACKGROUND?
1) 60 YEARS OF CHORAL EXPERIENCE BEGINNING IN HIGH SCHOOL.
2) MEMBER AND LATER DIRECTOR OF CHORALE ST. JEAN-BAPTISTE
3) MUSIC DIRECTOR OF BOSTON CONTEMPORARY SOUND