The Harrisburg Choral Society has announced that Music Director Dr. Robert Hart Baker will step down from the podium in May, at the conclusion of his tenth season with the group.
Glenn Murray, President of the Choral Society's Board of Directors, said, "The Harrisburg Choral Society has benefited enormously from the leadership of Dr. Baker over the past decade. His knowledge of the choral repertoire, vocal technique, conducting, and music history and theory is unparalleled. We will also miss Dr. Baker's superb command of orchestras, his ready wit, and his ability to strike the perfect balance between patience and demand for the Choral Society to meet high standards."
Two past presidents of the Choral Society board also expressed their appreciation of Baker's tenure with the group. Anne Dunne-Hayes, president from 2008 to 2011, remarked, "We are grateful for the stability and musicianship that Dr. Baker brought to the Harrisburg Choral Society. We've learned a lot from him, and we're better singers." Mike Zerbe, president from 2005 to 2008, added "We are losing an outstanding conductor. Any musician who has had the privilege of working with Dr. Baker understands what we're going through. We wish him nothing but the best."
Baker himself said, "I've enjoyed my 10 years with the Harrisburg Choral Society immensely. We've performed a great deal of outstanding music, much of which has been rarely if ever heard in the Harrisburg area. It has been my privilege to work with such fine singers, as well as outstanding soloists and orchestra musicians."
Baker also conducts the St. Louis (Missouri) Philharmonic Orchestra and the Asheville (North Carolina) Light Opera. He is past conductor of the York (Pennsylvania) Symphony Orchestra and York Symphony Chorus as well as the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. An accomplished oboist, Baker earned degrees from Harvard and Yale. At the latter institution, he studied with Leonard Bernstein. Baker's orchestras have performed in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Founded in 1895, the Harrisburg Choral Society is one of the midstate's oldest arts organizations. The group, numbering some 60 singers, annually performs a Messiah Sing-Along, a December holiday concert, an early spring madrigal dinner fundraiser, and a May concert of a major classical work. Professional soloists and orchestra musicians regularly appear with the Choral Society.