From senator to singer — Retirement means time for choral endeavors

Dennis Delaney says he’s not that religious.

However, if it’s true that “The one who sings prays twice,” as St. Augustine is supposed to have said, then Delaney sure has prayed a lot since retiring.

Although he grew up singing as a Catholic school student, during his years teaching history and French literature at St. Michael’s, as a state senator from Charlotte (1983-1988, 1991-1996) and as a legislative advisor to the parliament of Ghana in the late 1990s, Delaney didn’t have time for singing.

Photo by Dan Velleman. Dennis Delaney at rehearsal with the Vermont Choral Union.

But since retiring he’s been finding time to sing with the Vermont Choral Union, which has concerts planned for Friday, June 2, 7:30 p.m., at the First Congregational Church in St. Albans and Sunday, June 4, 4 p.m., at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Burlington.

He and his wife bought a bungalow in Las Cruces, N.M., where he sometimes fills in teaching language and literature at New Mexico State University for professors on sabbatical. And where he was invited to sing with the university’s Masterworks Chorus.

According to the New Mexico State University’s website, “The Masterworks Chorus provides students, faculty and members of the greater Las Cruces Community with opportunities to perform large-scale monuments of the choral repertoire.”

That opportunity led to another opportunity. Delaney was part of group of singers invited just before the pandemic by professor Elisa Wilson to perform with the University of Texas El Paso, about an hour east of Las Cruces. He has been making the drive when he’s in Las Cruces since.

In February, he was part of an event featuring that university’s Choral Union and the El Paso Symphony Orchestra performing Mozart’s “Requiem.”

“Some some people say it’s the most beautiful piece of choral work ever done. And some say it’s the most difficult,” Delaney said.

It’s a piece he has a lot of experience with. He has even performed the “Requiem” in Vienna.

The El Paso Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Czech-American Rohuslav Rattay, who Delaney describes as “an ambassador of classical music.”

“Watching him conduct is like watching a painter creating rich imagery to live music on a large canvas,” the El Paso Times said.

Delaney said he would have walked to El Paso from Las Cruces to have followed Rattay’s baton. Rattay holds degrees from the Prague Conservatory, Rice University and the Peabody Institute of Music.

Delaney is amazed by the voices of the students he sings with at the University of Texas at El Paso, some of whom come from Juarez across the border every day for school.

“I am overwhelmed with pride to be part of such talent,” he said. “Incredible singing voices, and I’m treated like one of them.”

Wilson, the Choral Union director who recruited Delaney, will be at Carnegie Hall on March 17 directing the symphony “Lux Aeterna.”

The Vermont Choral Union performances Delaney will be part of in June are billed as “Hope Conquers Fear.” It will feature music by both Johann Christoph Bach and Johann Sebastian Bach, along with Johannes Brahms and Benjamin Britten.

“I just love singing and especially classical,” Delaney said.