Maine Music Society Director John Corrie at his home in Lewiston on Aug. 13, 2019. The Baroque music master will be leaving MMS after being director for the last 14 years.  Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Do you know who John Corrie is?

You might know that he has been artistic director of the Maine Music Society, based in Lewiston-Auburn, since July 2006. At the end of the upcoming 2019-2020 concert season, John Corrie will retire from this prestigious position that he will have held for 14 years.

Perhaps you are aware that Corrie has been teaching at Bates College since 1982, where he is a lecturer in music. At the college, he has taught musicianship classes since 1982, and has been the college choir director since 1986. Along with his responsibilities in the Music Department, he teaches private voice lessons and private lessons on organ, harpsichord and piano.

But, do you know John Corrie?

You might not know:

— He built his own harpsichord, a beautiful and imposing instrument that sits in his music room at home alongside a grand piano and another harpsichord.

— He is a fantastic cook. Susan Trask, a charter member of the MMS Chorale and secretary to the board of directors says, “Ask any singer how much they’ve enjoyed his cheesecake extravaganzas or ask board members about the amazing buffet he puts on at his house at the end of each season! Cooking is one way that John cares for the people he works with and for.” And the obvious joy he derives from and attention he devotes to the preparation of these feasts is even more revealing. At his annual buffet, he lovingly prepares several dishes that are gluten-free or vegan to accommodate those with dietary requirements or preferences.

— He is an avid cyclist and swimmer. Pleased to have ridden in the Dempsey Challenge for a number of years, he looks forward to once again riding this year for what he believes is a great cause. Corrie laughingly remarks, “I did the 25 miles . . . the three best things that happened: I didn’t get a flat tire, I didn’t fall off my bike and I didn’t have to walk my bike up any hill.”

But, still, do you know John Corrie?

A career-long colleague and friend, Jim Parakilis, portrays Corrie this way: “The first thing I want to say about John is that his generosity to his students, his colleagues and the college has been boundless. You could always count on him to be in the Olin Arts Center at all hours and to be willing to help out with whatever needed his attention and his gifts. John Corrie has always been so present for those he teaches and directs and makes music with — present in his musicianship as in his generosity of spirit toward all of us — that it is hard for us to imagine musical life in the college and community without him.”

Trask echoes these sentiments. “John is a people person. He makes a connection with every singer, and maintains a relaxed, friendly atmosphere during rehearsals. He’ll make a joke or pretend to cry to break the tension — and to get results! In and out of rehearsals John is kind, caring, thoughtful and personable. I think singers in the chorale would do just about anything for John, he’s that well-liked.”

Maine Music Society Director John Corrie at his home in Lewiston on Aug. 13, 2019. Corrie will be retiring after 14 years with MMS.  Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Corrie is regarded by his peers and colleagues as a consummate musician. Along with being an excellent keyboard player on the organ, harpsichord and piano, he has become a fine conductor, mentor in choral singing and visionary guide for those with whom he performs.

With the major choral masterworks that require a professional orchestra, he prepares his conducting score months in advance; he practices how he will conduct, and revises and tweaks it as rehearsals develop. He has a strong vision for how the music should sound, and yet he is remarkably collaborative. He’ll ask the orchestra players for suggestions and check in with them about the clarity of his motion as he conducts rehearsals. He encourages and solicits suggestions from the singers about what to perform. Corrie seeks performance ideas seriously from everyone.

Corrie himself embraces and acknowledges value in such a collaborative approach, saying, “That comes with the job, because, ‘Oh that’s another way to look at that.’”

Bridget Convey, his long-time piano accompanist for the MMS performances and Bates College Choir,  showers Corrie with acclamation: “Kind, generous, fair, and consistent.”

She says he has been a “great colleague,” and that Corrie “treats others as equals, which in music is important and not always the case.” Importantly as well, he is “funny and knows his limits,” she says as further proof of his collaborative and inclusive style.

Did you know that John Corrie is a modern Renaissance man?

He speaks sincerely of his interest in and passion for Bach and the baroque style of music. The Baroque period was one of the richest and most diverse in music history from about 1600 to 1750, the latter part of what we call the Renaissance period.

Corrie is as accomplished in baroque music as he is well versed in the era of Bach and Handel. His interests, pursuits and skills are diverse and well-practiced. He typifies the ideal of a Renaissance man:

• gifted in all spheres of human endeavor, including athletics, art, science, philosophy and music;

• open to the world and embracing all opportunities as they come his way;

• maintains a sharp mind and healthy body in the belief that the mind needs a healthy body to achieve its full potential; and

• learning as much as he possibly can.

Chip Morrison, who is active in many aspects of the Lewiston-Auburn community as well as a member of the Maine Music Society’s Board of Directors, also speaks glowingly of Corrie as a friend and colleague. “I admire John for a lot of reasons. First, he’s done a great job of keeping the chorale together. He puts his whole heart into everything, with his leadership, with the artists. These groups make serious and challenging music, and he brings out the best, producing remarkable results in the concerts and programs he conducts.”

Echoing the sentiments of others, Morrison says John “is intimately and always involved in the organization, whether it’s baking for fundraisers or involvement in things that aren’t in his job description. John is always up to any challenge. He is a force to make things happen.” Morrison concedes one possible shortcoming when he jokingly adds, “but his real challenge would be to make ME a singer.”

Maine Music Society Director John Corrie at his home in Lewiston on Aug. 13, 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

As he approaches retirement from the Maine Music Society, Corrie looks forward to traveling. Leipzig, where Bach spent his most productive years, is a bucket list journey for him. Many other European cities and sites are on the agenda as his wife, Becky, gathers research for books she plans to write on art history. Scotland, to visit his ancestral family roots, is also a personal destination for John.

And, in a loss to this community, John and Becky will eventually be relocating a bit to the south of Maine to be nearer their daughter and her family.

But not surprisingly, in the near term, Corrie’s burning ambition is to return to keyboard playing, in which he took his formal music training; he still strives to improve his skill and technique. He mentions with admiration Frank Glazer, a famed concert pianist, who, after a career playing with the Boston Symphony and the New York Symphony, retired at age 65. Then, for the next 30 years, he served as pianist in residence at Bates College. As Corrie recounts, “He kept himself active, constantly planning the next concert. Just a wonderful role model and that’s what I plan to do for as long as I can.”

His concluding season with the Maine Music Society is sure to be a powerful and defining one. Such a vigorous and important organization led for these 14 years by such a remarkably diverse individual will be one to watch as John Corrie makes a final and triumphal circuit in the cultural heart of this community.

In summing up, Corrie admits, “It’s amazing to me to realize that at the end of this (season), I will have worked 14 years at this. It has been an incredible pleasure . . . to work with people, have some fun along the way and make things work better. Helping people to learn singing and ENJOY singing is what I’ve wanted to do.”

Everyone who knows Corrie well is in agreement that he has succeeded nonpareil. In unison and harmony, they all wish him well; they are sad to see him go, but happy he is moving on. And they are genuine in admitting they will miss him.

Of all the accolades afforded Corrie, the one that is the simplest and perhaps the greatest any individual may receive is voiced by Chip Morrison: “Basically he is just a good human being.”

And now you know — that is who John Corrie is.

Maine Music Society Director John Corrie at his home in Lewiston on Aug. 13, 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal


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