Welcome – The Martha’s Vineyard Times


The Island Community Chorus (ICC) has been a major island institution since 1996, and the group now has a new leader in Bill Peek, who will succeed outgoing director Peter Boak.

Boak helped found the choir and has since solidified it into a highly respected and beloved group of performers with singers of all ages, backgrounds, and degrees of musical expertise. Peek, a year-round island resident for five years now, was first introduced to his new home when he accepted a position as Music Director and Summer Services Organist at Union Chapel in 2013. From there, he took on the role of musician. director and organist of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury in 2017.

Prior to coming to The Vineyard, Peek served as Music Director and Organist at First Unitarian Church in Brooklyn Heights, NY, for nearly three decades. Under his direction, the choir and soloists of the First Unitarian Church performed a wide variety of works in concert, ranging from Handel’s “Messiah” and Fauré’s “Requiem” to masterpieces rarely performed by composers such as Rheinberger, Zelenka, Leonarda and Graupner. For 21 years, Peek was on the faculty of the Portledge School in Locust Valley, NY, where he directed the choral program, taught music theory, trained chamber music and jazz ensembles and has been musical director of theatrical productions. He was once on the faculties of Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn and the Newark Boys Chorus School.

An active independent musician, Peek has performed in concert as a soloist, accompanist and manager with a number of New York ensembles. He was a music teacher and consultant for Warner Brothers’ 2007 film “August Rush” and has performed extensively with various bands, playing American, English and Celtic music on piano, guitar, banjo, hammered dulcimer and bass.

According to ICC member David Behnke, with over 40 years of experience in musical direction, Peek undoubtedly has what it takes to bring the band together around powerful and beautiful pieces that are both thought-provoking and capable. performed by singers who have no professional training and cannot read music. “Bill is a terrific musician. I did a lot of choral singing and solo work with him at West Tisbury Congregational and Union Chapel,” Behnke said. “He is a very attentive conductor and, as a soloist, he is a wonderful accompanist and musical partner.”

In terms of leadership skills, Behnke said, Peek has all the abilities to muster an amateur choir for some truly spectacular performances. While no one can replace Boak, whom Behnke called “the heart and soul of the choir,” he said Peek was thrilled to build on Boak’s legacy and not just keep the choir going, but to expand it in new and exciting ways.

Paul Doherty, Behnke’s partner, who also sings in the choir, said Peek was very cerebral, but also a kind and encouraging person. “I was really hoping Bill would take the job, because there are so many people in this band who don’t read music. But he’s more than well equipped to take on the job,” Doherty said.

Chorus member Pam Butterick said the search committee tasked with finding a new director interviewed several candidates, and Peek ultimately emerged as the obvious choice. “We’re very grateful that he applied for the job – a musician and a leader of his caliber. It’s not a high-paying job, but it’s a high-profile job,” Butterick said. a group that has grown to as many as 130 members in the past, and for a director to lead that many non-auditioned vocalists, Butterick said, it’s a monumental challenge. But she’s convinced Peek is the right person for the job and said the band already has a significant repertoire of classical and popular music which she thinks Peek will greatly appreciate.”Bill is also a person who does a lot of his own arranging, so we’re looking forward to singing his own versions of songs that we may be familiar with in other forms,” Butterick said.The music can and must continue. Those little black dots on the page mean nothing if nobody sings about them! Bill will guide us well, so that we can sing our way to the future.

Boak told The Times that he believed Peek would step into a band with a strong core of talented and flexible vocalists, and that they would be able to pull off anything he threw at them. “The choir loves a challenge – although they love traditional music and more familiar things, they’re also very open to learning new things,” Boak said. He noted that one of the keys to success as a musical director is to consider the different types of singers in the group and pay attention to their strengths and needs. “So you have to know how to make the music friendly to them, while keeping the musically trained people challenged,” Boak said. “It’s a fun balance that I know Bill will be more than capable of achieving.”

Peek said he was honored to have been asked by the ICC to take on the role of director after attending many concerts over the years. He added that he admired Boak’s work, calling the choir a “true island treasure”. Peek will begin working with the band in September, and he hopes to make the experience fun for everyone involved. For Peek, choral singing is a profound way to experience music, to make music, and to be part of a community around music. “Choral singing allows singers to often participate in works of great musical genius,” Peek said. “If you’re singing a Mozart chorus you’re actually part of it, whereas if you’re looking at a large painting there’s not really much you can do other than observe it. It’s incredibly special.


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