EVANSTON — The Evanston Civic Orchestra and Chorus are revamping for this upcoming season, welcoming a new orchestra conductor and two chorus co-directors. Nick Harker from Utah will conduct the orchestra, while Nathan Baxter and Crystal Roskelley-Delgado will co-direct the chorus.
Rehearsals for both groups are open to all interested musicians and will begin on Thursday, Aug. 31, at Davis Middle School. There will also be an open house at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, at Davis Middle School. Rehearsal will begin promptly at 7 p.m. that night.
Evanston Civic Orchestra
Doctoral student Nick Harker will take the baton for the Evanston Civic Orchestra this fall.
An Idaho native, Harker earned his undergraduate degree in music education from Brigham Young University-Idaho and his master’s degree in music with an emphasis in orchestral conducting from Brigham Young University; he is currently working on his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Utah.
In addition to his conducting studies, Harker is primarily a violinist, although he started with the piano. He will offer a few 30-minute violin lessons before orchestra rehearsals.
Harker has experience playing with and conducting a host of orchestras and symphonies, including at BYU and in Idaho Falls and Salt Lake City. His repertoire stretches from modern music (including scores for films, documentaries and video games) to classical music.
Harker said he is excited to challenge musicians of all ages with a robust variety of music and see them build confidence while also pulling the audience into the joy of music-making.
“When the opportunity was presented to me, I jumped at the chance to get involved with these musicians and the community of Evanston,” he said. “Evanston is a wonderful community and one deserving a robust and active civic orchestra.”
Harker said that a civic orchestra is a two-way interaction between volunteer musicians and the community.
“Conducting combines all the areas of music that I enjoy into one satisfying whole,” Harker explained. “I get to work with musicians, challenge them and be challenged by them and interpret works of art that inspire and uplift.”
Evanston Civic Chorus
Crystal Roskelley-Delgado has been involved in the Evanston Civic Chorus since 2011 and has been director for a few seasons. She will work with co-director Nathan Baxter this fall.
The co-directors have some exciting plans for this season, including performing “Daemon Irrepit Callidus” and “Jabberwocky,” some pieces with a Halloween feel in the fall. Christmas arrangements will include “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “The Christmas Waltz,” and “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter.
In the past, the whole chorus has met from 6-8 p.m. every Thursday, but now men and women will separate for the first hour and then come together as a combined chorus. Baxter also hopes to implement practice tracks to make it easier to learn at home.
Roskelley-Delgado, who is newly married, has just returned from an annual trip to northern California to participate in a play about the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ. The production, performed in an outdoor amphitheater, features choir and orchestra performers from around the world. She has participated for several years and hopes to one day conduct the group.
She also teaches choir at Davis Middle School and usually directs the musical there as well.
Roskelley-Delgado says she is really looking forward to working with co-director Nate Baxter and hopes to grow the numbers of participants as well as the audience for the choir and orchestra.
When asked about challenges she expects to face, Roskelley-Delgado replied, “Juggling. It has been my experience in the past that people are very busy and involved in many activities here in Evanston … it can be difficult to find time for everything.
“The feeling you experience when singing in a group is something that is incomparable to anything else,” she said. “... Singing in groups brings feelings of elation, consolation, belonging and community.”
Baxter, choir teacher at Evanston Middle School, has helped to conduct in the past but is now officially stepping up as co-director of the Evanston Civic Chorus. He is brimming with enthusiasm about some changes taking effect this season.
Since part of the experience is in learning how to develop a voice, Baxter said anyone who wants to sing — even if they aren’t sure of their voice — is welcome to join the chorus.
Baxter is especially excited about the chance to do more barbershop, which he said is more than just straw hats and suspenders. He said the men’s choir will sing traditional men’s choir pieces, but he also wants Evanston to have a glimpse of the growth and vitality barbershop can offer.
“I mean, really, I can see us having a pretty solid group of 40-50 men singing in our own men’s choir if we can figure out how to format that,” Baxter said. “… If we can build that growth and interest here, I think we could really build a culture of men singing.”
Baxter said he is excited to work with his partner directors as the Evanston Civic Orchestra and Chorus move forward. He pointed to Roskelley-Delgado’s experience and knowledge and said Harker has a lot of good thoughts and ideas.
“I think we can garner more interest in everything, not just a choir but hopefully strings and, well, band, too,” Baxter said, adding that he hopes more high school students get involved in both.