New Artistic Director Adds New Perspective
In the Spring of this year the Wheatland Chorale announced that Harrisburg’s Eric Riley was appointed as the new Artistic Director, succeeding founder and director Robert J. Upton, who retired after 25 years. Mr. Riley is the Director of Music & Organist at the renowned Market Square Presbyterian Church in downtown Harrisburg where he has served since 2007. He is also the Conductor of the Central Pennsylvania Oratorio Singers, which has been based at Market Square Presbyterian since 2010. A graduate of the undergraduate program at Syracuse University School of Music with a degree in organ performance, Riley later obtained his Master’s in Music from the Scarritt Graduate School of Vanderbilt University. In addition to leading various church choirs his post-graduate conducting history includes an 11 year stint as Associate Artistic Director of Voices of Canton, Inc. (VOCI – formerly Canton Civic Opera), Canton, Ohio as well as guest conductor and performer at several music festivals in Ravenna, Bologna and Assisi in Italy.
Chosen from a field of 35 candidates hailing from 3 different nations, Eric Riley’s selection was the result of a rigorous and sustained effort undertaken by an independent committee of experts who were appointed by the Board of Directors on the basis of their professional achievements in music education and performance in the choral arts and/or their artistic organizational accomplishments and experience.
The members of the Search Committee represented a broad spectrum of music education, performance and experience that ranged from early childhood Kodaly instruction through seniors choirs and instrumental ensembles. The Search Committee was led by Dr. O. David Dietz, former Director of Secondary Vocal Music Education at the Central Dauphin School District, member of the music faculty at Penn State and Arts and Humanities Content Advisor for the PA Dept of Education. His colleagues on the committee included Dr. Jane Pippart-Brown, former chair of the Department of Music at West Chester University and a nationally recognize expert in Kodaly Methodology, Adlai Binger, a former Wheatland Chorale member who is Co-Chair of the Music Department and Director of Choral Arts at Albright College, longtime choral director, educator and retired Wheatland singer Earl Pickle, and York accountant Jeffrey Byers, a founding board member of The Cultural Alliance of York County and a former Board President of the Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center. The Search Committee spent nearly 12 months advertising, screening and reviewing applications and submissions from candidates, arranging and conducting audition rehearsals for and interviews of the 5 finalists and surveying the members of the chorale before and after each audition. The recommendations and final rankings were submitted to the Wheatland Board of Directors and final interviews were conducted by the Board.
Eric Riley’s experience with all forms of choral music and his particular affection for Renaissance and international contemporary styles promises new and exciting ventures for the Wheatland Chorale and the chorales at Elizabethtown College and their audiences. Being steeped in the classical traditions of European/American church music, Director Riley easily appreciates the traditions and repertoire of the Wheatland Chorale yet at the same time envisions new opportunities to learn and broaden the artistic experience of the Choral and its audience.
Mr. Riley’s familiarity with the South Central Pennsylvania region and its tradition of choral singing together with his years of experience in a wide variety of sacred and secular artistic settings in other regions of the U.S. and in Europe provided him with a rather unique combination of qualities as a candidate. His understanding of the challenges and responsibilities of the Artistic Director’s position, his ideas for meeting those challenges and his appreciation of the opportunity to work in harmony with a college music program and, most of all, his rapport with and enthusiasm for the members of the Wheatland Chorale all combined to produce the appointment that he accepted and now holds.
Early reports from the singers at this season’s rehearsals provide assurance that study, attention to detail, nuance and style remain important standards in the Wheatland Chorale. We all look forward with great anticipation to the debut of Maestro Riley with the Chorale in December and invite each and every reader to join us.