Bangor has a good track record when it comes to sustaining community arts organizations. The Bangor Band has been around for 151 years; the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, 114. Both the Robinson Ballet and the Penobscot Theatre celebrate their 35th seasons this year. Bangor is a city that loves its arts.
This Sunday, May 16, the Bangor Area Community Chorus will bring its 40th season to a close with a concert at 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church on Essex Street in Bangor. Director Joshua Schmersal, the sixth director of the chorus, and pianist Colin Graebert will lead the 25-person chorus in a program of new and old favorites.
“I started back in 2004, while I was still in college at UMaine,” said Schmersal, who graduated in 2005 with a degree in vocal performance. “If there’s something we’ve tried to change, it’s that we have been trying to perform more in Bangor. We’ve done lots in other towns, but not as much here.”
The BACC has seen many ebbs and flows, including a stretch in the 1980s when no men volunteered for the chorus, making it essentially a women’s chorus for several years. Men returned in the 1990s, with four men joining 21 women in the chorus this year. There are a handful of newer members who have been with the chorus for only a few years — and then there are folks like Lloyd George, who has been with the chorus for its entire 40-year history.
For Sunday’s concert, Schmersal and the chorus have chosen an array of longtime BACC favorites.
“We’ll be doing some favorites from the early 1970s, like ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ and ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz,’” he said. “But then we’re doing one of my favorite pieces, and one of the first I ever did with the chorus, ‘Candle on the Water’ from ‘Pete’s Dragon.’”
Schmersal is a graduate of the music department at UMaine and learned several weeks ago that his major is one of the programs cut from the university’s budget.
“I definitely fear that with the cut in performing arts at the university, there won’t be as many people in the area to take up the reins for organizations like ours,” he said. “It’s always difficult to find people who are that passionate about what they do, can volunteer, and have the credentials to lead. I worry that it’ll affect the future of arts in our community if those folks don’t have a reason to study here and to stay here.”
Nevertheless, Schmersal knows the core of his chorus is its devoted members.
“The heart of it is in the community. They do it because they love it,” he said.