By Dr. Rob Tomaro
Martha (Marty) Bein is one of the most successful Choral Directors in her field. She has been the Director of the Mendelssohn Chorale for 22 years. She is also the Director of Worship and Music at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Interim Director of the Rockford University Women’s Ensemble and prepares the chorus for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra.
When I asked how she is able to get her favorite choral works programmed with the RSO, she laughs and says, “I’m fortunate in that I have a special relationship with the conductor.” She’s married to him.
It’s special indeed and, as music patrons, we have benefited tremendously from having these two gifted conductors settle in Rockford. What Maestro Steven Larsen has done to build the prestige of the symphony, Marty has done with her choral groups in our community.
She was born into a musical family in Corning, Iowa. Her grandmother put her mother through Oberlin College and her aunt through Northwestern by teaching piano at 50 cents a lesson. Marty’s mother also became a music teacher and, in choosing her own way in life, Marty says, “ It takes a lot to decide to do what your mother did. While in college, it took me a while to decide if I was going to be in music education or be a piano major. I finally realized I was too much of a people person to spend hours alone in a studio practicing the piano”.
She was well on her way to a great career even before coming to Rockford, having served as Chorus Master for the Lyric Opera, Cleveland for several years and also for the Chicago Opera Theater.
I asked if she finds herself facing different challenges preparing her chorus than Steven faces rehearsing the Rockford Symphony. One important difference is in the makeup of the chorus, which is comprised of people from a variety of musical backgrounds.
“I approach it more as a relational thing, building relationships through music. I have to take people at where they are and raise them up, while Steven gets them at a certain level, already.”
There is a certain amount of enrolling and inspiring people that is integral to the community choir experience.
“Yes, because they could be doing anything else at the time. Some are paying for child-care. Some are negotiating work schedules. Some are choosing to dedicate their one free night to this. When Monday night football is on, I know I’m going to lose certain people if their favorite team is playing.”
At the other end of the spectrum, many in her group are peers of hers.
“I have a plethora of other choral conductors in my groups. Some are conducting at schools, or other community groups, or churches. I have a real responsibility to those people because I am a role model for what they are able to take back and use in their settings.”
I asked Rich Hilliard, who has sung for Marty for many years, what makes her special.
“She probably has us better prepared than anyone I’ve ever studied under before. She is a great friend and deeply dedicated to her profession”.
Finally, I asked Marty to reflect a bit on her life and her time here and she said, simply, “Rockford’s been a great place to fulfill a lot of dreams”.
On November 7 the Mendelssohn Chorale will perform Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances from “Prince Igor.”
On December 19 and 20, they will perform with the RSO at their Holiday Pops concerts.
In March, they will present a Baroque concert, including Bach’s Cantata 147, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
Finally, on April 23, the Mendelssohn Chorale will perform George Shearing’s “Songs and Sonnets.”