by Janet I. Martineau
It’s official .. the athletic and witty candidate with the flowing dreadlocks and fancy red socks is the new artistic director/conductor of the Saginaw Choral Society.
Following an 18-month search which showcased seven candidates, Baltimore native Glen Thomas Rideout of Ann Arbor won the job. He was the next to last candidate to guest conduct a concert -- and it was a spectacular one.
The program featured music from around the world, Rideout himself even warbling on one of the songs, as well as the sounds of a “rainstorm,” which Rideout created with the help of not only his singers but also the audience.
The Oct. 23 concert shot a wave of electricity through the Temple Theater, with many in attendance (myself included) saying the choral society had achieved a new sophistication of sound during it.
Nina Lasceski, chair of the search committee and a soprano with the chorale, recalls working with Rideout on that concert.
“He made rehearsals fun,” she said. “He went out of his way to get to know the singers AND the audience. During each rehearsal, he set aside a couple minutes for the singers to ask him questions. And after his concert, he went outside in front of the Temple Theatre and greeted the audience members as they left. The positive feedback we received was phenomenal.
Continued Lasceski, “He brings a spark of energy to choral music that is apparent both on and off the podium. He is a dynamic musician and an avid communicator with unique insight.”
In accepting the job, Rideout said, “The Saginaw Choral Society has a great statewide reputation for artistic excellence, and when I first heard about the opening I knew I wanted to offer my name for consideration.
“I am very excited to have an opportunity to lead a group of such a rich history of artistic excellence and thriving musical community. I look forward to getting to know both the singers and the people in this larger community throughout our musical journey together.”
The volunteer community chorus is in its 75th year.
Rideout, who is pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of Michigan, begins his duties immediately. He replaces Robert C. Sabourin of Midland, who stepped down in May, 2009, after leading the group for six years. And Sabourin replaced the late Jack B. Jonker, who led the group for nearly a quarter of a century.
First up for Rideout is to prepare the chorus for its May 7 concert, “Party Time,” at the Temple. The program selections were submitted by Rideout as part of the audition process and rehearsals for it begin Monday night.
“I think of ‘Party Time’ as a musical ‘engagement celebration,’ the idea being that the choral society and the new conductor will have engaged each other,” says Rideout. “You’re going to hear a musical celebration like none other—the type of high- octane journey the choral society does so well.”
It is the final concert of the 2010-2011 season.
Also among his duties is preparing the chorus to sing Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the Midland Symphony Orchestra on April 16, at the Midland Center for the Arts, and to combine with other regional choirs in the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Temple Theatre on May 14.
Currently, Rideout is director of music at First Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Ann Arbor. He holds a bachelor of music in voice degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and a master of music degree in choral conducting from the University of Michigan.
He earned first prize in the National Association of Teachers of Singing voice competition and was awarded second prize in the American Choral Directors’ Association National Conducting Competition. He also has conducted numerous choirs in the United States and Europe.
The choral society’s search committee received 27 applications, and the seven finalists each conducted a concert during the past year and a half. In addition to Rideout, the finalists were Clinton Desmond of Mitchell, S.D.; Timothy Hendrickson of Midland; Zebulon Highben of East Lansing; Catherine McMichael of Saginaw Township; Leo Najar of Bay City, and Kevin Simons of Saginaw. Both Desmond and Simons withdrew their names from consideration after receiving full-time university job offers.