PENINSULA — When Barbara Poulshock announced she was finally stepping down after years as director of the Bayside Singers, the group faced a challenge. How to replace her?
As the singers celebrate Poulshock’s 93rd birthday this week, they are gearing up for a couple of shows under their new conductor.
And Milton Williams of Oysterville comes with a significant pedigree. He is a composer, conductor and baritone singer whose professional musical accomplishments have taken him around the world.
“Having a person of that stature in our community is amazing,” said Clay Nichols, immediate past president of the group. “I am so energized by meeting Milton. He is an excellent person.”
Barbara Bate, the accompanist, agrees. “He brings decades of composing, directing music, both choral and instrumental groups,” she said. “He is a vocal teacher of music as well as a choral director. He really has a passion for directing our choir.”
The Bayside Singers came together under Sandy Nielson in 2007. Poulshock was accompanist and later became director. It started as an all-woman group, but adding male voices like Nichols, an enthusiastic baritone, have broadened its scope.
Two holiday season matinee concerts are planned. The first is Saturday Dec. 7 at the Chinook Events Center. The second will be the following weekend, Dec. 14, at the Ocean Park Lutheran Church. Both start at 2 p.m.
The programs will feature traditional Christmas carols, Williams’ arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” and his own composition, “Beside Still Waters,” which is based on the 23rd Psalm.
Nichols called Williams’ work “intriguing.” “It is melodious and has beautiful tones, but is very complex. To me it is a classic piece.”
The creation thrills Bate, too. “It is a challenging piece, but really quite beautiful,” she said.
Bate noted that when Poulshock bowed out, singers did have to adjust to Williams. “He is very demanding,” she laughed. “It is certainly a different style from Barbara Poulshock directing. He is demanding professionalism. After the initial shock, the chorus has responded very well.”
Williams is 83. His varied professional musical career, which featured educating and performing, included seven years teaching music at the University of California at Berkeley, which had seven vocal groups, and a stint at Stanford University. He has sung in Europe and directed or assisted with performances of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass,” including at the Vatican.
He retired about a year and a half ago to a five-acre farm in Oysterville, where his family had often vacationed.
“I expected a lot of blow-back when I first joined them, but I have been blown away by their enthusiasm,” he said. “I have learned so much from them. I think that is important in the process of trying to teach and grow the ensemble.”
In addition to Williams’ selections, Poulshock has contributed a choral version fo William Blake’s poem “To The Evening Star,” as a tribute to her late husband Normand Poulshock. The poem’s lines include, “Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew on every flower that shuts its sweet eyes in timely sleep.”