Familiar face named new Quabbin Valley Pro Musica director


  • Then-executive director Nicholas Thaw with the grand piano inside the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem RECORDER FILE PHOTO

For the Bulletin
Saturday, September 16, 2017

NEW SALEM — Geoffrey Hudson is back as music director of Quabbin Valley Pro Musica after a 10-year hiatus.

The Pelham native served in the role from 2001 to 2007 before focusing on his composing work, and he again signed on to the gig in mid-August.

“I’m very excited. I had a wonderful experience working with them, and I’m thrilled to go back and dive in again,” he said.

Pro Musica is run by the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem. “In a way, it’s coming home and working with old friends and, in a way, it’s meeting a bunch of new people.

“It doesn’t really feel official to me until we have our first rehearsal, which is this Monday,” he added.

The first rehearsal, at 7 p.m. in the Central Congregational Church, kicks off the fall-winter season, which is an open chorus. Rehearsals are every Monday at 7 p.m. in New Salem. This season will continue until the closing concert in late January.

The fall-winter season will feature masterpieces by two baroque composers, Handel and Durante. Pro Musica will perform a selection of choruses from “Hercules” and “Solomon” by Handel, as well as Durante’s “Magnificat.” Hudson said he is most familiar with Handel’s choruses and can’t wait “to explore some of his other stuff.”

A small instrumental ensemble will accompany Pro Musica in the performances. Current chorus members come from nine towns in the North Quabbin and Pioneer Valley regions, according to the 1794 Meetinghouse.

Pro Musica consists of roughly 50 choral members, with Judy Johnson as collaborative pianist. Concerts include instrumentalists and occasional guest soloists. The music is primarily classical choral works, but also includes modern compositions.

Brad Forster, executive director of the 1794 Meetinghouse, said Hudson was a perfect fit to replace music director Charles Heffernan, who retired in June.

“We knew Geoffrey had run (Pro Musica) in the past. He stopped doing that because he moved. A lot of people contacted him, not only to see if he was interested, but also to get his advice,” he said. “I’ve met Geoff and I like him, but I’ve also heard great words about the work he did during his last stint, 10 years ago. He was a known entity. Enough (Pro Musica members) knew him to say, ‘He was great,’ and it just made the whole process a lot easier.”

Forster said the decision to hire Hudson was made by the executive committee.

Hudson’s compositions have been performed across the United States and Europe. His most recent work, “The Quartet Project,” is a six-volume collection of graduated string quartets modeled on “Mikrokosmos” by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. Hudson explained that learning the violin or cello typically limits young people to practicing alone, and the purpose of “The Quartet Project” is to equip them with music they can play with others. Each volume, Hudson said, is increasingly complex.

More than 200 quartets worldwide have performed selections from “The Quartet Project,” according to the 1794 Meetinghouse.

Hudson, 50, has undergraduate degrees at Oberlin College in Ohio, where he studied American history and composition. He earned a master’s degree in composition at The New England Conservatory.

In addition to Pro Musica, Hudson is entering his 12th season as music director of Pioneer Valley Cappella in Northampton and has spent summers directing the chorus at Greenwood Music Camp’s junior division. He said he is working on a piece, titled “A Climate Passion,” with a climate change theme.

“I’m primarily a composer — that’s what I do. But a couple of nights a week, my wife says it is good for me to get out of the house and have people do what I tell them to do,” he said with a laugh. “One of the things I love about the group is it brings in people who may not have done music for a while and are just coming back to singing, or it’s their first experience. I think it’s so valuable to have a place for the community to come together and make art.”