Betsy Vance will make her conducting debut and her swan song at the next Mid-Columbia Mastersingers concert this weekend.
The Richland arts advocate won the bid to be the conductor for a day at a Mastersingers fundraiser last year.
She will borrow the baton from the organization's artistic director Justin Raffa and lead the choral group for one number at the From Darkness into Light concerts March 2 and 4 in Richland and March 3 in Walla Walla.
"This is harder than anything I could've ever imagined," Vance said. "Trying to get the dynamics, the different parts (alto, bass, soprano, tenor) coming in with the rhythm is challenging."
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She spent the past few weeks practicing in her living room with her two beloved pets howling in various octaves to the music.
"Maggie takes the soprano and alto parts and Mokie the bass and tenor, and it has gone very well," she joked. "However, practicing in my living room with my dogs is nothing like doing it with a full choir."
At her first rehearsal, she admitted she worried about falling off the podium because her knees were quaking and her heart was pounding in apprehension.
"I lost my place a few times," she said. "I tried to use the baton Justin gave me with flair and musical wisdom, but I think I looked more like a clueless circus clown."
Raffa thought otherwise.
"Although Betsy will be the first to tell you she's not professionally trained in music, she is by nature a musical being," he said. "She is a dear friend who is a passionate advocate for the arts, a spiritual (and) artistic individual who sees the value of art in society at its core.
"I believe her conducting will result in a moving performance for all involved."
Vance says she will be living the dream when she leads the choir in Sure on this Shining Night.
"In my dreams, I have always wanted to be a musical conductor of a huge choir or symphony," she said. "I never had a clue how hard it is. Justin is an absolute prince of a conductor, helpful, knowledgeable, wise and kind in all ways possible."
Sure on this Shining Night is about three minutes long, a clearly defined melody, slow tempo and in English.
"I wanted Betsy's first conducting experience to be on a piece that wasn't too terribly long and overly complicated," Raffa said.
The first half of the From Darkness into Light program includes music about darkness, which may evoke feelings of despair or loss, especially in the last song of the evening, the Seven Last Words of Christ. But there also will be lullabies, which Raffa hopes may provide fond childhood memories for listeners.
"The second half focuses on light: It's purity, its innocence, its hope," he said. "The concert ends with Alleluia."
Also on the program will be three pieces by the Mastersingers composer-in-residence Reg Unterseher -- Hymn to the Mother of Light, Pilgrim Spring and The Steady Light. The music was written to poems penned by Unterseher's wife Sheila Dunlop, a Tri-City physician.
"The poems are powerful interpretations of aspects of life's journey through the lens of the here and now," Raffa said. "Both are simple and profound in the same instance."
Vance will conduct at all three Mastersingers concerts. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. March 2, at Shalom United Church of Christ, 505 McMurray Ave., at 7:30 p.m. March 3 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Walla Walla, and again at Shalom in Richland starting at 3 p.m. March 4.
Admission to each concert is $20 at the door. All students are free.