Linda L. Tedford came to central Pennsylvania to start a church. She also founded a choir.
The Susquehanna Chorale was born in 1981 with 11 singers. It now has 35 and is the ensemble-in-residence at Messiah College in Grantham.
Tedford, who holds a master’s of music degree in choral conducting from Temple University, has been the chorale’s conductor and artistic director throughout.
The Susquehanna Chorale promotes the choral arts through performances, educational programs and commissions of new music.
It also records some of the music it loves, recently releasing its eighth CD, “Roots & Wings”—a studio recording featuring a repertoire from the chorale’s 2018 spring concert series of the same name.
The title of both concert and CD stems from a statement Tedford likes to quote, although she doesn’t know its origin: “Two of the greatest gifts we can give to our children are roots and wings.”
“‘Roots & Wings’ celebrates how the breadth of human experience and our relationships— rooted in faith, family and friendship—inspire us to achieve our dreams,” she said.
It is certainly diverse, including “Cantique de Jean Racine,” by the romantic French composer Gabriel Fauré and a modern arrangement of “Come, Sweet Death,” by Baroque composer J.S. Bach.
Aaron Copland, a 20th-century American composer, is represented by “Long Time Ago” and “I Bought Me a Cat,” as are spirituals.
“‘Yonder Come Day’ is one of my favorites, with its tambourines,” Tedford said.
There’s a lullaby, as well as Eriks Esenvalds’ “Only in Sleep,” based on a poem by American lyric poet Sara Teasdale about childhood friends who return to her in dreams.
The content of the CD reflects the chorale’s commitment to blending “music everyone knows and music we’d like to introduce to people,” Tedford added.
While the music is important, Tedford said that she first looks at the text when commissioning a work or selecting one for a CD.
Programming—whether for a concert or CD—is an “art unto itself,” Tedford said. “Others say they do it quickly. For me, it takes a long time.”
“I enjoy the texts and how words are set to music,” said Judith Shepler, a member of the Susquehanna Chorale since its inception. “Linda has a way of finding pieces of music with very memorable texts.”
Three of the chorale’s CDs have been considered for Grammy nominations.
The Susquehanna Chorale is known for its artistic interpretation of works of many styles and historical periods, as reflected on its CDs. It has also commissioned several new works for its concert series.
The CDs reflect the chorale’s commitment to presenting standard pieces “everyone should know,” along with introducing new works to the public, Tedford said.
The emphasis in all of the chorale’s endeavors is quality.
“Most of our singers have had professional training or were [music] teachers,” Tedford said. “They could be soloists.”
Shepler applauded both the chorale and Tedford.
“Linda continues to challenge me,” she said. “I’m still growing as a singer and a choir member.”
Drawing from Tedford’s mentoring and guidance, Shepler also directs the chorale’s Children’s Choir and the Children’s Prep Choir.
“It’s a great joy in my life to secure the next generation of choral singers,” she said.
The chorale also enjoys collaborations. Next on its calendar are two performances, on April 13 and 14, of French composer Francis Poulenc’s choral masterpiece, “Gloria,” with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. The Messiah College Concert Choir and Messiah College Choral Arts Society also will be singing in the concert at the Forum in Harrisburg.
The next Susquehanna Chorale spring concert—“Singing the Dance of Life”—takes place at Derry Presbyterian Church in Hershey on May 10 and the High Center of Messiah College on May 11.
In the end, Tedford said, the chorale’s music is about beauty and hope for the future, two topics that offer constant inspiration for writers of new choral works.
“People keep writing gorgeous music for the choral field,” Tedford said.
For more information about the Susquehanna Chorale, and to purchase a copy of “Roots & Wings,” call 717-533-7859 or visit www.susquehannachorale.org.