Williamsport Civic Chorus Music Director Ned Wetherald wanted to kick off the group's 69th season with something different and decided to base the first show of the year around folk music.
"Well, we try to have a variety of music every year," he said. "This year, it just seemed like we hadn't done anything with folk music in awhile."
Folk music is, according to Wetherald, "the root of choral singing."
The Exodus Brass Quintet will perform with the Williamsport Civic Chorus for the group’s “Wintersong” concert, which will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 7. The WCC’s first concert of the season will be at 3 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Klump Auditorium at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
"People singing stories to each other is how it began," he said. "This is getting back to our roots."
When one's organizing a choral concert centered on folk music, it helps when some of the members of the group are in a folk band: Civic Chorus members Lucy Henry and Wendy McCormick perform as a part of Black Bear Crossing, a popular local music act that will play with the WCC as a part of the concert.
"We like to have other people perform with us," Wetherald said. "It gives a little breadth to the things we do - gives us a little variety."
The concert is named "Hear the People Sing" and will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Klump Auditorium at Pennsylvania College of Technology. The WCC began rehearsing for the show immediately after Labor Day.
"This is a quick concert for us," Wetherald said. "Usually, we have more time to prepare. But we're in good shape since we're sharing the concert with Black Bear Crossing, we don't have to do so much of it ourselves."
The second concert of the season, "Wintersong," will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 in the main lobby of the Susquehanna Tower at Williamsport Regional Medical Center. The show will be holiday-themed.
"We're celebrating all the things that happen in December," Wetherald said. "Of course Christmas, but Hanukkah as well and Winter Solstice-type things."
The show will feature The Exodus Brass Quintet and some dancers that will look to get music lovers out of their seats.
"We're going to get them to involve the audience in some dancing as well," he said.
Wetherald couldn't remember a prior WCC show that has included dancing.
"It'll be interesting," he said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."
The third and final concert of the season will be at 3 p.m. April 28 at St. Mark Lutheran Church, 142 N. Market St., and will feature G.F. Handel's "Theodora."
"If I remember correctly, it's his next-to-last oratorio," Wetherald said. "Handel himself thought it was one of his best works. There's a chorus in the work that he thought was better than the 'Hallelujah' chorus that he's famous for. It's a wonderful story, too. It's the story of a woman who's Christian and who's being persecuted because she's Christian. It's a little dark."
With each of the three concerts being held in a different venue, Wetherald said the biggest challenge is "getting used to the acoustics."
"Each of [the venues] has very different acoustics," he said. "We're interested in how the hospital lobby is going to work out. It's an unusual shape and has a lot of hard surfaces ... I always dread the first rehearsal in a new space. The choir takes a lot of time to adjust to the acoustics."
The Chorus performs more often than not in churches.
"The nice thing about churches is the acoustics are good there," he said.
WCC has performed twice in the Klump Auditorium at Penn College and Wetherald said it's "A nice place to perform."
When reflecting upon the whole season, Wetherald said that it's filled with diversity.
"Well, I think one of things we have this year is variety," he said. "That's what our season name says, 'From Folk to Baroque.' We intentionally do that. We try to have something for everyone - not only for the audience but for the singers as well."
The most satisfying thing for the music director is hearing the final product after so much work. "By the time the season ends, we'll have put in a lot of Monday night rehearsals, but it all pays off when you create this sound better than what any one of you could do by yourselves," he said. "It's a wonderful experience and I think the audience shares in that too."