NJCS premieres composition by Hawthorne teen
by Ethan Galvin for Vocal Area Network
Posted November 22, 2017

Christopher VehmasChristopher Vehmas, a 17-year-old musician and singer from Hawthorne, NJ, is not your typical teen. In addition to playing soccer, tennis and baseball, he has studied piano for the past seven years and played guitar for eleven years. He has also been employed as a part-time actor at the Metropolitan Opera for the past six seasons, having appeared in Il Trovatore, Turandot and Andrea Chénier, and is currently appearing in La Bohème through March 10, 2018.

Vehmas also sings with the prestigious New Jersey Choral Society, an auditioned community chorus based in Ridgewood, led by Artistic Director and Conductor Eric Dale Knapp. On two occasions he was invited by Knapp, who tutors him in conducting, to conduct pieces for NJCS – When You Wish Upon a Star during the "Disney Salute" concert in 2015 and Inscription of Hope during the "O Fortuna" concert in 2016. This December, Vehmas’s first composition, Laudate Dominum, will receive its world premiere during the New Jersey Choral Society’s holiday concert series, "Celebration of Carols." The concerts will be held on Saturday, December 2 at 8:00 PM and Sunday, December 3 at 3:00 PM at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, 30 North Fullerton Avenue, Montclair, NJ as well as Tuesday, December 5 at 7:30 PM at the West Side Presbyterian Church, 6 South Monroe Street, Ridgewood, NJ. These concerts begin the Jubilee Season for the New Jersey Choral Society, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Artist-in-Residence Linda Sweetman-Waters, with whom Vehmas has been studying piano for the past four years. Knapp has invited Vehmas to be a guest conductor for Laudate Dominum, which will be performed by the NJCS chamber choir, Camerata.

When asked what inspired him to compose music, Vehmas replied, “After learning the basics of composing from my AP Music Theory class, I was really interested in composing a song of my own. I selected Psalms 5, 142, 148 and 149 and began writing music for the texts. Once I finished the composition, Mr. Knapp reviewed the piece and encouraged me to translate it into Latin so it could be performed during the holiday concert for NJCS. The meaning of this sacred piece,” says Vehmas, “focuses on praise to our King and God as well as his angels and his heavenly hosts. Even the celestial beings such as the sun, moon and shining stars praise His name. Our dancing and music are also a tribute to Him.” “The message of this composition,” says Knapp, “is definitely in keeping with the themes of peace and praise, which are integral in the Celebration of Carols.”

Outside of his commitments to NJCS, Vehmas is home-schooled, taking most of his classes online; however, he teaches himself a few classes from textbooks. For music, he also sings with the NJHSA Genesis Chorale directed by Beth Prins, a choir of home-schooled students, which ministers to local churches, nursing homes, senior centers and other venues. Every year the Genesis Chorale goes on a two-week long tour. This year they traveled to Costa Rica and next year they will be going to South Africa. The Chorale also participates in music festivals and competitions.

During the Christmas and Easter seasons, Vehmas also sings with his church choir at Covenant Christian Reformed Church in North Haledon, directed by John Van Buiten, and on a weekly basis, he plays guitar, piano or sings with the Praise Band at Covenant Christian Reformed Church.

When asked about his future plans, Vehmas replied, “I hope to study choral and orchestral conducting in college and possibly music composition, because music has always been an important part of my life. Everyone can enjoy or be moved by a piece of music, and I hope to be able to impact the lives of people now and in the future through music.” Clearly this gifted and multi-talented young man has a very bright future in the field of music.

Ethan Galvin is the Publicity Director of the New Jersey Choral Society.