Over the past month, the members of the historic Countryside Community Choir have been performing seasonal favorites around Madison County under the direction of Cazenovia High School alumnus Eric Feola.
The 27-year-old music teacher at DeRuyter Central School directed the choral group through three large performances in DeRuyter, Pompey and Homer in their 52nd year.
“Having the opportunity to work with a group of singers from the community has been an honor,” Feola said. “This choir joins together students from DeRuyter Central with adults from around the area and creates a unique collaboration opportunity for everyone involved.”
Feola, a current Cazenovia resident, was asked to fill in as choir director while the long-time director Bill Tei was on medical leave this season. The more than 30 members kicked-off the holiday season with a Dec. 4 concert in the Pompey Community Church and then performed on Dec. 11 at the Grace Fellowship Church in Homer and Dec. 18 at the United Church of DeRuyter.
Having grown up in Cazenovia, Feola graduated from Cazenovia High School in 2002 before heading to Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam to work toward a bachelor’s degree in music. He later received a Master’s degree from Boston University, and upon returning to the area in which he grew up, was hired to teach music at DeRuyter Central.
The Countryside Community Choir was started in 1959, when the Pompey United Church asked Anne Humphrey to coordinate a musical presentation for the ecumenical Palm Sunday service. Numerous community members from the area and involved churches volunteered to participate that year, and the next, even more came forth to populate the choir. Rehearsals regularly rotated between different churches as many members traveled to take part.
Almost 10 years later, George Ames, the music supervisor at DeRuyter Central became the choral director, and a Christmas concert was added to the annual schedule of performances. The first Christmas concerts was held at Fabuis Central School.
Ames retired from his position in 1971, welcoming Muriel Newcomb as the director. She lead the group until Bill Tei took over command in 1999. Currently, the Countryside Community Choir is populated by singers from Cazenovia, Pompey, Fabius, Tully, LaFayette, DeRuyter, Cuyler, Cortland, South Otselic Valley, Truxton and Jamesville.
Over the 52 years, the group’s size has fluctuated between 30 and 60 members. The choir will begin rehearsals at the DeRuyter United Church this month, to prepare for upcoming concerts, although no dates have been made official.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.