Into the Mystic, chorale's maestro is off to Carnegie Hall

Page to conduct two of his own compositions

Email|Print| Text size + By Leslie Talmadge
Globe Correspondent / November 25, 2007

Whether standing or sitting in front of his 240-member chorus, Nick Page strikes an impressive figure. The 6-foot-6-inch, Arlington-born musician has been compared to a Bible-thumping preacher. And at times, he feels like a preacher, he said. But instead of spreading the gospel, the energetic and charismatic 54-year-old choral director exhorts his singers to reach inside: "You can do it. Be amazing."

"My goal is always magnificence," he said.

Today, Page will have his own shot at magnificence, when he makes his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York.

There are three Carnegie Halls; Page has led songs at the hall in Scotland and, who knows, one day maybe at West Virginia, too.

As for the acclaimed venue on Manhattan's West 57th Street, Page said, "I never thought it would happen to me. . . . It's very thrilling."

Page started playing the string bass as a sixth-grader at the Diamond Middle School in Lexington, where he grew up, and where his father, William, served as an elected Town Meeting member for 40 years. Setting up microphones at Town Hall, he said, "I fell in love with democracy."

But even then, his politics bent toward the musical. "I used to love the sound of 300 voices saying 'Aye,' " he said.

An accomplished musician, Page plays the bass, piano, recorder, and his latest instrument, the ukulele, and he directs the Mystic Chorale, a nonprofit, volunteer-run community chorus based in Arlington, which he founded nearly 20 years ago.

He leads workshops throughout the state, and, over his career, has taught music to thousands of children and adults across the United States and overseas. He also conducted the Chicago Children's Choir and taught music at schools in Lexington, Cambridge, and Boston.

In New York this weekend, appearing on the same stage where such stars as Led Zeppelin and Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz have performed, Page will conduct two pieces he wrote, "The Nursery Rhyme Cantata" - seven variations of "London Bridge" set to nursery rhymes - and "Stars, Songs, Faces" from his Carl Sandburg settings, orchestrated by Arlington composer Chris Eastburn.

The program also features contemporary choral music conducted by John Leavitt of Kansas.

But the Mystic Chorale, which draws singers from all over the Boston area and as far away as New Hampshire and Rhode Island, is his passion.

At Page's home in Melrose, his collection includes 4,000 CDs and 11,000 songs on his iPod. His list of favorite composers includes Frank Zappa and Sir Michael Tippett.

In its most recent sold-out concerts last weekend at Cary Hall in Lexington, Page directed the Mystic singers in songs ranging from the 16th-century German composer Michael Praetorius to the contemporary "Afropean" group from Brussels, Zap Mama.

But it isn't just the diversity of music that distinguishes the Mystic Chorale.

"To make a community alive, we need the audience to be a part of that community," Page said. At every Mystic concert, "we get them to sing along."

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