A Roarin’ Good Time


Photo from Rick Benjamin’s
Paragon Ragtime Orchestra


The ’20s began with the aftermath of WWI and ended with the onset of the Great Depression. In between, it was an era of unprecedented social, artistic, and cultural dynamism.

SVC celebrates the decade with a collection of some of America’s most cherished songs, including music written by Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Victor Herbert, and more.

The Chorale’s Roaring ‘20s Pop Concert features a special guest appearance by the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. Rick Benjamin is the group’s founder and director, and this marks the third time he’s collaborated with SVC music director and conductor William Payn.

“Bill and I go back a long way together,” Rick says. “I’m a big fan and he’s a good friend, too. Bill approached me a few years ago about staging a Roaring ’20s performance together, and it’s exciting to finally see it come to fruition.”

Rick isn’t just leading 12 incredibly talented orchestra musicians on the stage. He’s also played a key role in programming – researching, cross-referencing and making final selections from hundreds (“a very big pile”) of potential scores.

But the collaboration didn’t end there. “Bill and I have been working closely together at rehearsals. I will be conducting the first half of the concert, Bill will lead the second.”

Attention to detail and historical accuracy marks the concert’s programming. “Our performance will be an accurate, note-for-note rendition of those wonderful classic compositions,” Rick reports. To him, Showboat is a special highlight. “This is truly a groundbreaking musical based on a serious dramatic novel with a strong moral message.”

Rick promises an “exciting and fun” concert. “It’s music for the entire family. Older audience members will recognize our familiar Roaring ’20s numbers. Younger ones will appreciate hearing these wonderful old standards and learn from the experience. I hope to see you there!”

Get your tickets now!

Conductor Payn is a “big fan” of Downton Abbey!


Purchase an “Early Bird” subscription at our Spring Concert and receive a specially designed tin filled with Maestro SVC Classical Blend tea!

I’m a big Downton Abbey fan. The PBS show has intrigued me from day one and I watch it faithfully every Sunday night. SVC’s performance of “The Music of Downton Abbey” includes two works from the show’s soundtrack, including “Us and Them” by composer John Lunn.

Our Spring Concert is an encore presentation of a hugely popular performance put together by Dr. Matthew Mehaffey, a Bucknell alumnus who is currently a professor at the University of Minnesota. I am honored and grateful that he shared this program of well-loved English choral works with us.

Some of the pieces have biblical origins, others secular. I’ve found the music is challenging, with lots of layers, textures and harmonic implications. We deviate from the original compositions in one notable regard-they were first written for male singers; our performance is decidedly co-ed.

The singers have really embraced the upcoming event and I can promise it will be a real “hoot” and crowd pleaser for those who attend! SVC soloists will be dressed in period costumes, as will Fiona Siobhán Powell, our very own “Lady Alice,” the narrator who guides us through the trials and tribulations of post-Edwardian, turn-of-the-century events. The audience will be invited to join in on three popular English songs, including our rousing finale -“Rule, Britannia!” the famous and familiar British patriotic song set to music by Thomas Arne in 1740.

The Chorale will be accompanied by our orchestra, along with guest organist David Cover, who’s appeared with us several times in the past. Please join us after the performance to enjoy a delightful spot of tea.

Do join us!




Candlelight Concert “Inspiring”

winter-concert-2014To the Editor:

This past Sunday’s performance by the Susquehanna Valley Chorale was, in a word, inspiring. The candlelight service featured Bible readings, carols, hymns and choir music. Adding to the experience was harp, organ and bells, creating the perfect “ringing in” of the holiday season. From the first gentle notes of the harp to the dramatic ending with the bells, the concert was a memorable blend of voices and instruments. Conductor William Payn  masterfully selected and adapted this rendition of Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols to fit the talent of the Chorale and added soloist Emily Martin plus reader Carlos Kearns to create a meaningful concert. Harpist Elizabeth Asmus and organist David Cover plus officiant John Dromazos and the Zion Lutheran bell choir under David Reier’s direction were superb in their contributions.   Undoubtedly, those 500+ in attendance this year will encourage friends and neighbors to attend next year’s (and every) concert by the outstanding and remarkable Susquehanna Valley Chorale. I know my husband and I look forward to each performance!

Sincerely, Anne Gates


To get a glimpse of our singers during rehearsal for this concert, check out the video produced by The Daily Item, Sunbury.

Payn’s Cherished Holiday Tradition

For most of us, the holiday season has a unique and cherished place in our hearts. For me, SVC’s  Winter Concert is a continuation of a Christmas performance tradition that dates back to the 70’s, when I started my career as a music professional. It’s a heritage I deeply treasure.

Candlelight Christmas also gives me a chance to reunite with several talented colleagues I’ve worked with in the past. David Cover (organ), Elizabeth Asmus (harp),  Emily Martin-Moberley (soprano), David Reier (handbell director), Carlos Kearns (reader) and John Dromozos (officiant) will all make guest appearances.

Our program is a special adaption of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, first sung in Cambridge, England in 1918. The tradition features nine Bible readings interspersed with the singing of Christmas Carols, hymns and choral music.

Like me, the SVC singers have embraced this concert. We have a wonderful, full, rich ensemble for this holiday event, and the consensus seems to be…

“I just LOVE this music!”

What makes Christmas so special to you? IIf it includes fellowship, the warm ambiance of candlelight, beautiful holiday decorations, and singing traditional carols, our upcoming event is sure to strike home. And if past holiday performances are any indication, you’ll leave the church thinking…

“Wow…now I’m really ready for Christmas!”

Please join us in what promises to be a most memorable event.



Awed by the Chorale

Letter to the Editor – Daily Item – posted: Monday, October 20, 2014 8:00 am

As a classical musician who has recently moved to the Lewisburg area, I was awed by the fact that the Susquehanna Valley Chorale and its board had commissioned a new work for Chorale, two acclaimed soloists and orchestra: “Reaping the Whirlwind/The Harvest of War” by Jeffrey Van. That is a huge undertaking. The performance on Sunday, Oct. 12, preceded by “The Testament of Freedom” by another American composer, Randell Thompson, was very timely as we see war around our world on TV, and grapple with whether war solves any problems.

Words were taken from “Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms” (July 6, 1775) in the Thompson work, and Walt Whitman and other heart wrenching pieces from writers between 17th and 20th centuries in the Van work. All words were dramatically described musically in both works. The performance was as exciting as any I could have experienced in Philadelphia or New York! William Payn, SVC conductor and music director, inspired the best out of all the musicians and my heart was truly broken open by the end of the performance.

How fortunate you have been to have such an esteemed performance group in this area. I have much to look forward to in the arts here!

Kathleen Stayton, Northumberland

An Asset to the Region

Letter to the Editor – Daily Item – posted: Monday, October 20, 2014 3:23 pm

Last Sunday’s Susquehanna Valley Chorale concert was worthwhile  in every way. They premiered Reaping the Whirlwind, for chorus, soloists and orchestra by the composer Jeffrey Van. The music was throughout appropriate and sensitive. Now that tonality is back, composers can once more write music that’s expressive and likeable without in any way compromising their integrity. Van is a composer who sets our language capably and for whom words have meaning and value. His setting of various texts from Crane, Whitman and others constantly heightened the meaning of these texts. I hear other choral organizations are already interested in doing the work. They’ll find it eminently worth their while.

The afternoon began with Randall Thompson’s more familiar Testament of Freedom. Although less subtle than the Van  – it recalls some of the old Norman Corwin radio extravaganzas – to hear it live was still grand. The performances of all the artists were professional and then some. The chorale’s discipline and dynamic control constantly enhanced their music. Conductor William Payn again showed his genius for shaping a work with complete coherence. It’s as if, even before the first downbeat, he has in mind a complete picture of its form. I was reminded at every point of what an asset these artists are to our region.

Don O’Connor