Women's Chorus hires new artistic director

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com
Williamsburg Women's Chorus experiences change in leadership

Rob Keene stays busy.

He directs music at Trinity Church as well as Congregation Emet v'Or, both of which are in Newport News. He sings with the Virginia Chorale, and instructs at Christopher Newport University's Lifelong Learning Society.

"That's the life of a musician," he said, laughing.

Keene's latest undertaking is artistic director and conductor of the Williamsburg Women's Chorus. Following 10-year director Ann Porter, who left in December, Keene becomes the second male director in the group's 51 years.

"I really hope it's a continuation of Ann's leadership," said Keene, of his own directorship.

Keene, 39, obtained a music degree in organ performance from DePauw University and a master's of music degree from Indiana University. For his varied musical experience, Keene said his professional career has largely remained within the church. Seeking a position outside of liturgical music led him to the women's chorus.

"It's a group that's here to stay," Keene said.

He hopes to expand upon the varied repertoire and high-quality sound of the women's chorus. Keene said audiences can expect an even greater musical variety.

The group will continue to sing in multiple languages – English, German, Latin, Hebrew – and music will range time periods and genres.

Keene has planned a theme of "night music" for the group's spring concert on May 6, with each piece exploring a different element of evening, from Brahms' Lullaby to Billy Joel's "Lullabye." The concert will feature guests instrumentalists from the Virginia Symphony Orchestra on flute and viola.

"I get one chance to make a first impression," Keene said.

He is excited to more fully explore secular music, as well as the rich musical repertoire for treble voices.

"I think he's going to bring a little different perspective," said chorus member Susan Releford. "Fresh eyes."

Keene and his wife, Danielle, live in Newport News, but he looks forward to collaborating with other groups within Williamsburg's arts community.

"There's so much good going on in Williamsburg," he said.

Keene said the chorus will hit the ground running Thursday at his first rehearsal and the first rehearsal of 2016.

For more information, visit williamsburgwomenschorus.org.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-275-4934.

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