The following member spotlights feature bios of Monadnock Chorus members selected each semester for inclusion in our concert programs. The bios, written by members themselves, tell the story of the people who make up our choral community.
June Howe, Soprano/Alto. "I grew up in a household with lots of classical music on the phonograph and tape deck, and with parents who from an early age encouraged me to perform in music and dance. In school I was inspired by a charismatic music teacher named Vincent Allison, who gave me frequent opportunities for solo and ensemble work in Gilbert and Sullivan and classical music. Our school chorus also joined with other regional schools and colleges to perform the Berlioz Requiem and other large-scale choral works, most memorably in a tour of performances conducted by Robert Shaw. At seventeen I won a scholarship for two summers at the Aspen School of Music, ending in a youth audition with the Met. The audition went pretty well, but it convinced me that a solo career in opera was not what I wanted. After two years in college, I moved to New York City for a year studying voice with the prominent African-American soprano, Adele Addison. Adele insisted I return to school, but after a year at Northwestern University I put singing aside for the moment to join my newly-wed husband in anthropological fieldwork with the San Blas Kuna Indians of Panama. The connection established with the Kuna, shared with our two sons, has lasted now for a half-century, and when I returned to college in my forties, I fulfilled a Brandeis requirement with the Kuna language. Through the 1970s and 1980s in Boston, I balanced raising our sons with fieldwork and singing---along with a good bit of dance and theater- --performing with a number of different groups and musicians (Christ- mas Revels, the Quadrivium, John Oliver, and others). During a year back in Panama, I took tremendous pleasure from singing with a West Indian ensemble, the Coro Polifónico. Most meaningful for me were my years with Mistral, a vocal ensemble I first recruited but did not direct (we were super-democratic!), performing contemporary and early music. In the 1990s I put aside my own singing in favor of teaching and coach- ing young singer-songwriters in voice and performance. Since moving to New Hampshire in 2012, however, I have returned with great satisfaction to singing, this time with Norway Pond Music; the Monadnock Chorus; a new teacher, Dorothy Yanish; and even an old singing partner from high school, Deborah Strong Kaiser."
Karen Loudon, Alto. "I owe my love of music and singing to my father. He was a superb pianist and had a wonderful bass voice. He planned to have a career in music and enrolled in Westminster Choir College, but then WWII happened and he enlisted in the Marines instead. While he was carrying a stretcher somewhere in the South Pacific, he was shot through his left hand. As a result, music became his secondary vocation, but he was still able to play and enjoyed 60+ years as a church organist. When I was growing up in Pittsfield, MA, he took me to many community concerts where I was exposed to all kinds of wonderful music. He was my first piano teacher. He frequently ushered at Tanglewood and when I was old enough, I was allowed to come with him to hand out programs. Even though we had to stand, it was a thrill to see Van Cliburn, Leonard Bernstein, Jascha Heifetz, Aaron Copland, Beverly Sills and many others. We belonged to a large church and I sang in every choir there from age 4 to adult, joined choirs in high school and college, and participated in every special choral group that would have me. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t belong to a singing ensemble. The majority of my father’s musical genes went to our two children, a violinist and singer/French hornist, which of course has given us a lot of joy. And when my husband and I moved to Peterborough, I was thrilled to discover the Monadnock Chorus!"
Nancy Roberts, Tenor. "Singing has been a large part of my life since my sister taught me to harmonize when I was very young. I joined my high school chorus, my church choir and the town chorus in Medina, Ohio. Then came the Bach Festival Chorus at Baldwin Wallace College and back to Medina and teach grade school music as well as singing in chorus and choir. Then my life began again when I was forty. I changed husband, career and continent. Even though my guitar and I led many international song fests while living aboard a sailboat in the Med and later in a cottage by the sea in Greece, I did not sing with a group again until moving to France in 1987. I joined the Chorale Municipale de Riberac-St. Astier as soon as I could and sang with that group until I moved here in 2008. Again, one of the first things I did was to find a singing group, the Monadnock Chorus, which has been a source of much pleasure. I have added the Norway Pond Singers and proved, as Alice Parker says, “Singing is the most companionable of the arts.”
Jerry Reneau, Bass. Jerry is a retired English teacher and amateur musician. Between the ages of eight and twelve, he studied piano in the Porter Technique up in the NH Lakes Region. His job as a scholarship student at The Tilton School was to accompany the glee club and play organ at chapel. While majoring in English at Amherst College, he studied piano for four more years with composer John Duke. Since college he has kept up music on his own, mostly among friends such as Kate Maddalena, though since leaving Northfield Mt. Hermon School five years ago Jerry has become a regular supply organist in six regional churches. In order to accompany singers better, in his fifties Jerry took voice lessons, studying with Maria Belva of Peterborough; he now studies with Thomas Jones of Harvard University. Jerry moved to the Johnson Corner neighborhood of Lyndeborough in 1970.
Jessica Scharf, Soprano. Jessica grew up in a household infuenced by music. She fondly recalls that her earliest musical memories date back to her stroller days, when she would listen to Spotted Eagle on cassette. Her mother, Geraldine, and her late Aunt Alice, a piano instructor, were two major infuences among the many who ignited and encouraged her passion to sing. Having just recently graduated from the University of New Hamp-shire with an English degree, Jess works as a medical transcriptionist in Keene. Currently singing alongside the sopranos, she is so thankful to have received her invitation to join the Monadnock Chorus by her dear friend and musical mentor, Dorothy Yanish. This opportunity to collaborate on a beautiful choral piece has been exactly what she has been looking for.
Laurie Heffner Lewis, Alto. Laurie recently moved to Peterborough from Katonah, NY and was delighted to fnd the enthusiastic Monadnock Chorus. A lifelong singer and lover of all things music, Laurie most recently sang with the Westchester Oratorio Society under Benjamin Niemczyk. She has participated in many choirs and ensembles, and been fortunate to sing under the direction of talented conductors including Harold Rosenbaum, Ford Lallerstedt and Leo Botstein. In her past professional life, Laurie was a corporate writer and also enjoyed several years dabbling in theater production, both community and professional. Laurie and her husband, Lauron, have three grown children: one soprano, one tenor and one bass. Adding Laurie’s alto and Lauron’s baritone makes for many fun musical family gatherings.
Harry Purkhiser, Tenor. Harry remembers at eight years old lying on the living room foor with his head between the two speakers of his father’s new portable stereo phonograph listening to the Louisville Thorobreds Barbershop Chorus sing “Hold That Tiger.” He’s been hooked on singing ever since: high school choir, barbershop chorus and quartet, church choir, Woody Guthrie tribute trio, and now, The Monadnock Chorus. Harry claims he joined the chorus because he had seen enough of Matthew Leese’s directing from the back and wanted to see what he looked like from the front. Highlights of Harry’s musical life include singing with barber-shop choruses in international competitions and touring Cuba with the New Hampshire Friendship Chorus. In his more mundane life, Harry is retired from helping engineers write and cannot fully explain what he does with his free time now. He does enjoy camping, canoeing, and sailing with friends. And dinner.
Ginny Siggia, Soprano. I’ve sung all my life, starting with children’s church choir, but it really took off when I moved to Boston for college, and discovered early music. After college, and until retirement, I was part of the wonderful and vast choral community in the Boston area. For nearly 30 years I’ve also sung with Berkshire Choral International (berkshirechoral.org), in the US and abroad. Two memorable programs were in Salzburg shortly after 9/11, and Verdi’s Requiem at Terezin concentration camp, as part of the ”Defant Requiem” phenomenon. I’ve said many times that music is the ultimate ambassador; it was especially true during those weeks. Following retirement from MIT, I moved to Keene to be near my daughter Katie’s family, which includes my music-loving grandson Oliver, who is nearly four, and son-in-law Mike, an elementary school music teacher. A friend urged me to check out the Monadnock Chorus and its exciting new conductor, Matthew Leese! I did, and I love it. The SING! program has brought several young singers into our chorus. They are delightful and take the music very seriously, and are quite capable of pointing out egregious notes.
Jackie Kahle, Alto. I first started singing choral music in college, where I had the opportunity to sing with the NYU Choral Arts Society under the direction of E. Jon deRevere, and toured Puerto Rico and Jamaica with the group. After taking a VERY long break to start my career in high tech marketing and raise our daughter Sarah, I accidentally "discovered" the Monadnock Chorus in 1996 and have sung in every concert since then (and served for 6 years on the Board)! I've also sung for many years with the Monadnock Chorus Chamber Singers, the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, the Symphony NH Chorus and Norway Pond Festival Singers. I love all of the arts (my husband Michael Dell’Orto is a professional actor and director) and just retired after 15 years from the NH State Council on the Arts where I was the Vice-Chair. I still work full-time as a marketing VP for the software frm CA Technologies (hope to finally retire next year!) and am active on the economic development committee in Wilton.
Marilynn Acker Ezell, Tenor. Home, when I was a child, was in the very small farming community of Bridgehampton, NY. Performing arts in such a small place meant everyone’s participation was needed. So it was natural that I joined the adult church choir and the high school band at age 9, started my 5 year stint of being piano accompanist for the Sunday school at age 10, and joined the oratorio society at age 12. Later, I sang in 4 choral groups at Northfeld Mount Hermon School and 3 at Denison University. As soon as I fnished optometry school and moved to NH, I joined the Monadnock Chorus. That was 1979. I’ve stayed with it all these years because I am continually stretched to learn new styles of music, sing in different languages, and work on my tone quality. Making music together with people seems like one of the best forms of community there is and important to my life along with family, practicing optometry, Lions Club, environmental issues, gardening, walking, and skiing.
Chet Bowles, Bass. Our family moved to Peterborough in May 1982. One of the frst things we did in our new home was to attend the Monadnock Chorus spring concert. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I believe the group performed a Haydn mass. But, whether that memory is correct or not, I do remember being quite impressed with the quality of the performance, especially for a non-auditioned community chorus in a small, rural town. The following September my wife, Sue, and I joined the Chorus. From myriad friendships and serving on the Chorus board to rehearsals and concerts and European tours, the Chorus has been an exceptionally important part of our lives in those 35 years. Aside from the Chorus, I have served on a number of boards and committees including twelve years as a Selectman in Sharon and another fve years as the Sharon Town Administrator. Sue and I met in college. We were both singing in the college’s touring choir and have been singing together ever since. In August we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We have two sons; both live in New York City. Our older son is a sound editor for flms and movies (just fnished work as a Dialogue/ADR Supervisor on “Beauty and the Beast”). Our younger son is an on-site producer and videographer and has worked on a number of television shows for the Science Channel, National Geographic, and the Food Network. We have two grandchildren: Max is twelve and Daphne will be eight in May. Of course, they are the most wonderful grandchildren in the world.
Emily Turner, Soprano. Emily Turner grew up singing in community choruses in rural Vermont and was introduced to choral music as a child through visits with her beloved grandmother. Emily continued to sing with community groups after moving to Norway, where she studied outdoor education and traditional handwork and worked as a (singing) milkmaid. She had a brief interlude as the sole, not solo, alto in the nine-member Stadsbygd Kor, a local chorus that already had six soprano members. The next move was to study education in England, where she returned to the soprano section in a large chorale. Thereafter followed several years and thousands of miles of prodigal wandering by ski, bicycle, and canoe, punctuated by annual Messiah sings. Emily first came to sing with Monadnock Chorus in 2012, joining her grandmother and former chorus member Priscilla Sherwood. Today, Emily is a teacher at High Mowing School, and is delighted to be singing with three of her students in Monadnock Chorus' fall program.
Muriel Henault, Alto. I joined the chorus over 30 years aago and it has been an awesome experience. We have performed so many gorgeous and moving pieces of music. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel with the chorus and sing all over Europe, Greece, Scandinavi and in the US at Carnegie Hall! My favorite experience was singing in Rome for Pope John II. Since retiring from being an OR nurse, I have enjoyed more travel time with ky husband, Ed, and more time for choral singing. It is also fun to read, knit, sew, do crosswords, enjoy The Players and the BSO and best of all--enjoying time with my 4 granddaughters. Life is good.
Dick Ernst, Tenor. Dick Ernst has sung with a variety of musical groups over the years from Barbershop quartets to Chamber Music. Currently singing tenor for Monadnock Chorus and Chamber Singers, Dick most enjoys singing the soaring swells of Puccini and Rossini or the magnificent melodic chording of Mozart, Bach and Brahms. Dick made his singing debut at age 10 as a soprano in a Boy’s and Men’s Choir in Springfield MA. As a tenor, he performed with Glee clubs in High School and College, then in a Community Chorus in Springfield Vermont. He joined the Keene Cheshiremen as a baritone when his family moved to Harrisville, NH, then got together with three other guys from Harrisville to form a Barbershop Quartet called Vintage Blend. When not singing, Dick enjoys kayaking, camping, golfing and “puttering”. He and his wife Carolynn live in Harrisville on Lake Skatutakee. Their three children all have musical and artistic talents and their three grandchildren love to hear their Papa sing to them.
Randy Staver, Bass. Randy Staver’s musical career began in the 5th grade, when his brother broke his arm and he was given the “family” trombone. Choral singing began later in life, and he has been singing with the Monadnock Chorus since the autumn of 2009. He has also sung and performed with other venues around the Monadnock Region, including Raylynmor Opera Company (Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado), Norway Pond Festival Singers, and with Symphony NH. During the day, he works as a physicist for a local aerospace company performing optical engineering and laser system design. Besides music, his other main interest is the outdoors: hiking, mountain climbing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Rockies of Colorado. He also enjoys paddling long canoe trips through the remote, un-inhabited regions of northern Ontario.
Deborah Waldo – Soprano. Deborah Waldo lives in Wilton, NH with her partner, John Catlin, of Catlin- Petrovich Architects. Deborah is a fifth grade teacher in Milford. Her favorite aspect of teaching is creating a community of learners who work as teams to help one another master dif cult concepts or tackle projects. The daughter of a professional vocalist, Deborah has always been involved in music. She earned a bachelor’s degree in choral music from Texas Christian University and taught music for four years. In addition to the chorus, she is currently on the board of the Monadnock Summer Music Festival. When not working or singing, Deborah enjoys swimming, kayaking, biking, and spending time with her daughter, who is a professional aerial coach and somatics practitioner.
Sue Bowles – Alto. My husband, Chet, and I moved to Peterborough in 1982. The real estate agent we worked with learned of our interest in music and singing and told us about the Monadnock Chorus. We attended the chorus’ spring concert that year and, in September 1982, joined the chorus. Hard to believe, but that was 34 years ago! We have two sons—both live in New York City. We also have two grandchildren--Max is eleven and Daphne will be seven in May. I am a lifelong lover of fabric and any handwork that involves the use of a needle. I also own a machine quilting business. I use a large industrial-size machine to sew the customer’s quilt top into a nished quilt by combining the top, batting and bottom together. Finally, we own a one- room log cabin on a lake in Maine. We spend as much time there as we can--it’s a wonderful place to read, kayak, walk, and relax.
Mary Ellen Bushnell - Tenor. When I was 5 my mother offered me up to a Julliard student who needed a piano student for a course requirement. Soon after I sat in on a neighbor’s piano lesson and swooned upon watching him perform The Happy Farmer – the crossed hands part. Next was the violin until in 7th grade the red headed girl turned up with a cello. My dad glued together a broken down instrument from my piano teacher’s attic that equipped me for high school orchestra. Further piano and cello attempts have been intermittent, though I have one of each gathering dust. Singing commenced in the church choir and continued through high school, college, and community choruses, a noontime madrigal group at work, and 5 years in a Sweet Adelines chorus. Now, between chorus rehearsals, I have a lively retirement occupation taking care of other people’s animals – horses, donkeys, and alpacas; chickens and ducks; dogs and cats. Alpacas hum, can you believe it?
Chuck Hersey – Bass. My wife and I decided to retire in Harrisville NH from CT in 2006 to be near family. I joined the Keene Cheshiremen Barbershop Chorus that year and then joined the Monadnock Chorus in 2010. My eld engineering career had taken me from MA to CT, TX, Israel, Singapore, and back to CT. When I’m not singing with the Monadnock Chorus and the Chamber Singers, I putter around in my workshop making tables and cabinets. I just finished a walk-in cedar closet in our basement to store my wife’s many handmade quilts. I enjoy watching my grandkids grow up in Brookline, NH and play an occasional golf game with friends and family.