WESTERLY — George "Bunky" Kent, the musician who conducted The Chorus of Westerly for more than 50 years, will return to the podium Saturday to conduct the first part of a concert featuring selected movements from G.F. Handel's "Dettingen Te Deum."
"It was the very first piece the chorus performed in 1959," said chorus Executive Director Ryan Saunders Monday afternoon in a telephone interview.
The concert was prepared as part of the chorus's 60th anniversary celebrations, Saunders said, which will conclude will a gala event in the fall.
Saunders said when he and Andrew Howell, the current music director, were brainstorming ideas to make the anniversary year special and unique, they thought inviting Kent, who served as music director from 1959 to 2012, to come back and conduct a part of the program, would be just the ticket.
"We were delighted when he said, 'Yes,'" said Saunders. "Mr. Kent celebrated his twenty-third birthday just before [the first concert] and now, here we are, sixty years later with a little slice of Handel paired with Beethoven."
Following the "Dettingen Te Deum," Howell will conduct the chorus and the Festival Orchestra in Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," and a second movement from the famous Ninth Symphony, along with Johannes Brahms' "Nänie." Soloists Tracy Cox, soprano, Heather Johnson, mezzo soprano, Daniel Weeks, tenor, and Ron Loyd, bass, will also be featured in the performance.
Having the chorus founder back in the building has been fun, Saunders said, especially since many of the younger singers have never worked with Kent, who has become a legend in chorus circles.
Music for the concert was chosen to celebrate the the history of the chorus, Saunders said.
After all, Saunders said, what is more celebratory than the 'Ode to Joy?'