Music director shares special bond with mother, daughter accompanists
A full-circle moment, which is 40 years in the making, is set for Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Hagerstown Choral Arts Christmas Concert.
Greg Shook, Mary Mae Remsburg and her mother, Sharon Granofsky, take the stage together.
“Both mother and daughter are exceptionally talented, and … they are performing together with us for the first time during our Christmas concert. The duets and the arrangements for four hands are absolutely beautiful,” said Elizabeth V. Cuthbert, a member of the board of directors at Hagerstown Choral Arts.
Shook, who is music and artistic director as well as the founder of the Hagerstown Choral Arts, first met Granofsky in the 1970s while he was studying music at Shepherd University, known then as Sheppard College. Shook made friends with a piano student, Granofsky, who became his accompanist during his student oboe recitals.
“We had several classes together and Sharon ended up being my accompanist for a few semesters while I was there. She was one of the nicest people I knew in college and was a terrific pianist,” Shook said.
Granofsky attended Shepherd University for music education from 1977-1980. She taught piano at home.
Remsburg said when she was 18 months old, she would hum songs that her mother’s students were playing. Remsburg was lifted onto a bench to perform her first recital at the age of 4.
Granofsky taught her daughter piano until she graduated high school. Remsburg then followed in her mother’s footsteps by attending Shepherd University where she studied music education from 2012-2016. Shook was Remsburg’s music history professor.
“I knew there would be great things there,” Shook said. “I had the pleasure of attending her senior recital at Shepherd and was just awed by her musical ability. She handles a variety of musical styles with prowess and can shift from jazz to classical with great ease. She is such a well-rounded musician. I also hear wonderful things about her piano teaching, I know that she has the respect of the music faculty at Shepherd. Like her mom, she is kind and works well with people.”
Remsburg, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., is now the accompanist and rehearsal assistant, for Shook and Hagerstown Choral Arts. Shook said accompanists are a very special breed of musician.Hagerstown Choral Arts Director Greg Shook (Submitted photo)
“They see us at our best and our worst and, depending on the situation, become therapist, counselor, advisor, and musician,” Shook explained. “The mark of a good accompanist is when they can read the conductor’s mind, good or bad, second guess a little, and jump in. It’s sort of another sense they develop and it’s a true gift. Mary has that.”
He said that in addition to the solid musical support an accompanist must provide, they need to pick up on a conductor’s vocal work with the choir, the musical phrasing, and all the voice parts at once while the singers are learning new music.
“As the singers learn vocal technique, so does the accompanist. The accompanist also needs to be able to take sections and work at coaching them on voice parts. When the chorus is rehearsing a major work, like Handel’s Messiah, singers even learn part of the orchestra accompaniment to cue singers. It’s a huge responsibility. People that attend concerts see someone walk on stage, sit at a piano, and play music. It looks so simple. ... it’s not. A skilled accompanist becomes a true collaborator with the conductor and the singers. It’s a true partnership. Mary is truly my right hand,” Shook said.
Granofsky, of Franklin, W.Va., will join her daughter and Shook for this special Christmas-themed performance.
“So it’s a circle-of-life story. Greg has been doubly blessed to know these two women — this mother and daughter — at different stages of his musical career,” Cuthbert said. “Little did he know back in 1977 when he was accompanied by Sharon that he would, in 2017, be accompanied by her daughter, and that in 2019 mother and daughter would be playing together under his direction.”
Remsburg said she and her mother have played in various recitals and events together over the years as she was growing up, but this is the first time all three of them have performed together in one concert.
“Mom accompanied for him in college, I accompany for him now, and now we all get to hang out and play music for this concert together,” Remsburg said.
Granofsky will join the chorus for several pieces.
Mary and Sharon will play several selections by themselves on the program including, “Carol of the Bells” by M. Leontovich; arrangements by Melody Bober, and “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson; arranged by Michael Edwards.
“We talk about life cycles and things circling around, this is a wonderful and welcomed example of that. My relationship to this family goes back to the mid-70s, and here we are 40-plus years later collaborating again. I keep thinking about gifts, for me, this is a major gift as we begin this holiday season,” Shook said.
Christmas with Choral Arts is scheduled to take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church located at 15 Randolph Ave. in Hagerstown. The event is free but a freewill offering will be collected.
For more information about Hagerstown Choral Arts, Inc., visit www.hca-md.org.
Top photo: Sharon Granofsky, left, and her daughter, Mary Mae Remsburg will be performing together at the Hagerstown Choral Arts Christmas Concert. (Submitted photo)