Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

A Chorus, For Us: For the pandemic-weary, Cantate Carlisle has a song and a celebration

When the long-term tenure of an artistic director comes to an end, the organization may be concerned about what follows.

Not so for Cantate Carlisle, the choral group established and headed by Cheryl Parsons for 30-plus years.

When Parsons retired in 2020, the choral group turned to a person who many of the singers knew and had confidence in. Michelle DiBona Trefren, who accepted the baton, is a long-time area conductor, pianist, organist, vocalist and music educator.

“I couldn’t be more honored to be in this position and fill the shoes of quite a legacy of great choral music-making in Carlisle,” Trefren said. “When I learned about the opening, I was ecstatic and knew this would fit right into my passions—leading and inspiring musicians to make great choral music at a high level that can bless a community.”

Simultaneously, Trefren is the resident music director at the Carlisle Regional Performing Arts Center.

“Cheryl provided wonderful leadership due to her musicianship, attention to detail and concern for the needs of the singers,” said Taylor Andrews, a choir member who is also president of the board. “We are fortunate that Michelle follows her lead with skill and empathy. Both have brought expertise, energy and fun to rehearsals, resulting in outstanding performances.”

Andrews joined Cantate Carlisle in 1996. An attorney and chief public defender, he previously sang in a church choir.

“With my large caseload, Cantate Carlisle rehearsals were a form of therapy and joy,” he said.

One of the strengths of Cantate Carlisle lies in the devotion of the singers. The longest serving member is Beverly Mancke, who joined the choir at its very beginning. A first soprano, she began singing solos when she was 8 years old but now prefers being part of a group.

“My husband John saw the audition announcement and suggested I try,” Mancke said. “I continued to audition each year.”

But the opportunity to sing good music was only one reason to stay on.

“I’ve met and become friends with many wonderful people,” Mancke said. “Tuesday evenings have become my chance to put everything else on hold and enjoy learning and singing all kinds of music. Since 1990, we’ve sung many different pieces of music and performed a wide variety of concert themes from Bach to Broadway.”

In addition to the adult group, the choral organization features Cantate Young Voices for singers in grades four through eight in the area.

Beth Kammerer is in her fifth year as director of Cantate Young Voices. She’s a retired music teacher who taught choir for 20 years at schools in Hawaii.

“Singing is a passion of mine, and I’m very excited to share my love of music with the young singers,” she said.

Cantate Carlisle’s diverse membership ranges in age from 23 to 80, averaging about 40. As in the past under the baton of Parsons, the repertoire is varied, said Trefren.

Some highlights have been works by Brahms, all sung in German, Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Songs” in Hebrew, and “Ceremony of Carols,” composed by Benjamin Britten and written in Old English.

Occasional trips out of the country are among the joys of singing with Cantate Carlisle. So far, the group has traveled to England, Scotland, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and Canada. Occasionally, these trips offer opportunities to sing with local choral groups.

Next up for Cantate Carlisle is their winter concert, which takes place in early December. The postponed 30th Anniversary Gala is slated for May 7.

“With only one rehearsal as a group this past year, the choir dove into recording songs as an ensemble, masked and distanced in a large and well-ventilated space,” Trefren explained. “Hearing the ensemble all together, for the first time since I took on the artistic director position, was certainly thrilling.”

“Convergence,” the Cantate Carlisle winter concert, takes place Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 21 S. Bedford St., Carlisle. For more information, visit

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