The most talked about courtship and marriage in the 56-year history of the Santa Clara Chorale has to be that of alto Elsbeth TeBrake and baritone Roger Medsker, who first sang together at rehearsals in January 2016, courted globally and now live in harmony in Los Altos.
They wed on June 16 in Medsker’s home state of Nebraska, where they sang “A Thousand Years” and “I’ll Be There” during their own ceremony, bringing tears to many an eye. Chorale members Janet Wright from San Jose and Joop Verbaken, who flew in from India, and Medsker’s brother and sister-in-law from Chicago made it a sextet.
TeBrake and Medsker’s romance began in the back row of the Chorale, where they usually stand during concerts at Mission Santa Clara. However, it took a Chorale tour to Spain in June of 2016 to spark the romance.
“I certainly remember how happy Elsbeth and Roger were spending time together on tour to Spain,” said Chorale Artistic Director Scot Hanna-Weir. “I’ve watched choir bring people together everywhere I have served as a director. People come together for their love of music and then sometimes find love for each other in the process.”
After Spain, TeBrake and Medsker began courting discreetly under the radar (or so they thought) of the 80-voice community chorus. In the summer of 2017, they went with the Chorale to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall.
The day before the June 24 performance of Songs of the Slave by American composer Kirke Mechem, Medsker took TeBrake on a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park, proposing to her at the landmark Cherry Hill Fountain.
When they announced their engagement at rehearsal later that day, Mechem was present. In a serendipitous moment, he shared that he and his wife had also met in a choir.
“The Chorale seemed to give Roger and Elsbeth a place and time to explore their relationship together, to get to spend time together doing something they both love, and with a supportive community,” said Hanna-Weir. “It’s a great place to begin a relationship.”
In the 1980s, Chorale singers Dave and Mary Wilmer also began their courtship on a Chorale trip to Europe, marrying two years later in 1985. Mary still sings with the Chorale.
2018 -2019 Chorale Season
“I often tell my singers that most choral pieces are about either love or death. In the case of Música con los Muertos, they are usually about both,” said Hanna-Weir, commenting on the 2018 – 2019 season opening concert on Oct. 19, 7 p.m., at Mission Santa Clara.
Música con los Muertos is inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. It is billed as a lively and eclectic exploration of how people connect with their ancestors in the hereafter.
David Conte’s arrangement of Three Mexican Folksongs is paired with African-American spirituals and other traditional songs. Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem honors victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami. Works by Berlioz, Brahms and Mozart are in remembrance of those who have come before.
“There’s something for everyone this year,” said Hanna-Weir. “Handel’s Messiah this December, the ridiculous Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan [next March], and [next May], the Rutter Requiem and Lauridsen Lux Aeterna, which are absolutely stunning works with orchestra. Every concert is so different, but it is all phenomenal music that we strive to perform at a very high level.”
Although Medsker has performed in 12 choirs, it was the Santa Clara Chorale that brought him love.
“Love is a wonderful thing. I am grateful to have more than one love in my life—my love of Elsbeth and of music,” said Medsker. “Being able share them together is beyond words.”
“I joined the Chorale because I loved music, and I found fun, friends and love,” said TeBrake, who is from the Netherlands. “Baritones and altos are an amazing fit.”
Visit www.scc.org for how to add phenomenal music — and perhaps even love — to your life.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Elsbeth TeBrake’s name as Elsbethe Tebrake. The error has been corrected. Thank you to those who pointed out the error.