"At St. Mary Help of Christians, I have my sacred side taken care of. Now I can take care of my performing side," said Dr. Simpson, the music director at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church, who recently was named director of the Aiken Choral Society. "I have the best of all possible worlds."
Longtime choral society director Antoine Cordahi retired in the summer, and Coile Scarborough, the music minister at Cornerstone Baptist Church, served as the interim director.
A native of Aiken, Dr. Simpson is a graduate of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and received her doctorate from the University of South Carolina. She studied at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and has spent 25 years as a soloist for choral societies and symphonies along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Midwest. She has appeared onstage with Luciano Pavarotti, Jon Vickers, Joan Sutherland, Rita Hunter, James Morris, Diane Soviero and Louis Quilico.
Locally, she has sung with the Augusta Choral Society, Augusta Opera and the Aiken Choral Society. She spent nine years as a professor at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.
Dr. Simpson is working with the choral society on its May concert, which will feature the music of Franz Schubert.
"I have a real passion for music. I want to see them succeed," she said. "I'm an Aikenite, and I have a vested interest."
One of her primary goals is to broaden the group's audience base. The choral society is one of the older singing groups in Aiken, established as an offshoot of the Aiken Community Playhouse about 40 years ago, she said.
Some people tend to think of classical music as stuffy, she said, but that is not the way she directs it.
The quality of the singers has made working with the chorale society a great experience, Dr. Simpson said.
"Ninety percent of them read music and read it well. It's a real thrill," she said.
The group has about 30 members, but she'd like to see it grow to no more than 40.
The Aiken Choral Society rehearses at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at Cornerstone Baptist Church, 100 Cornerstone Drive.
For more information, call (803) 649-6570.
Reach Charmain Brackett at firstname.lastname@example.org.