Ridgewood musician pursues new path, composing and arranging music
In September 2003, Blacker joined the prestigious New Jersey Choral Society, an auditioned community chorus based in Ridgewood, in order to fill a musical void in her life. Eventually, because of her strong musical background, she was appointed Vice President of Artistic Planning and assisted the Artistic Director and Conductor, Eric Dale Knapp, with music selection for each concert.
In 2017, Knapp asked Blacker to write an original piece of music to celebrate the NJCS Jubilee season, which is celebrating artist-in-residence Linda Sweetman-Waters' 30th anniversary with the chorus. Knapp found a prayer titled "Grant Us Peace" from The Gates of Prayer: the New Union Prayer Book, a standard liturgical work for the Reformed Judaism Movement, and asked Blacker to arrange a musical composition for this prayer. She feels that this prayer of peace is timely for our country, because it was written for and read by a rabbi at a UN special meeting on global peace. "The prayer has us look inward to find strength to set an example to the rest of the world that we can live in peace," says Blacker. It asks us, continues Blacker, "to set an example and show the world how we hold out our hands toward friendship, strengthening bonds between us." She used the text from the prayer and composed and arranged music for it. "Grant Us Peace" will receive its world premiere during the New Jersey Choral Society's holiday concert series, Celebration of Carols, 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 Ave, Montclair, as well as Tuesday, December 5 at 7:30 pm at the West Side Presbyterian Church, 6 South Monroe St., Ridgewood.
Blacker has composed previously for the New Jersey Choral Society. In 2013, Knapp asked her to write a piece of music for the NJCS holiday concert, Ceremony of Carols. Excited by the prospect of composing music, she began reviewing winter poetry and came across the well-known poem "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost, inspiring her original composition "Snowy Evening." Due to the success of that piece, Knapp invited her again in 2016 to compose a work for the holiday concert, which featured Claudio Monteverdi's Magnificat, a work based on the Marian Vespers or evening prayers. Blacker decided to write a piece connected to the spiritual themes in Magnificat. The biblical story of Hannah, a scorned and barren woman who prays to God for a child and miraculously gives birth to Samuel, inspired her to write the composition "Hannah Prays," which received its world premiere in December 2016.
Aside from these composition opportunities, Blacker also collaborated in 2015 on arranging three contemporary pieces for the Echoes, a women's a cappella group, at Lehigh University where her daughter Rebecca was a student. She assisted with new arrangements of "Levels" by Nick Jonas, "Soldier" by Gavin DeGraw and "Ghost" by Ella Henderson, which the Echoes (including her daughter Rebecca) performed in the spring of 2015. She also wrote a small violin part for the New Jersey Choral Society and credits this composition with "opening up the path to her future."
Outside of her commitments to NJCS, Blacker teaches piano lessons at Music and Arts (formerly Victor's House of Music) in Wayne and offers private piano lessons at her home in Ridgewood. She has also sung with Sirene, a women's a cappella group, and has performed at "Ridgewood Unplugged," an annual fundraising event offered by Ridgewood musicians to raise money for the Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum. Blacker also works as an Interior Designer with an AA degree in Interior Design from Berkeley College. She owns RFB Design LLC, which specializes in space planning and renovations.
When asked if she plans to write more music, Rita replied "Composing music inspires and challenges me to write more." She explains that "music is the passion that ignites the soul and breathes meaning and purpose into her life. It will always be an integral part of my life, because of its ability to heal, unite and transport."
Advance tickets for performances of Celebration of Carols featuring Blacker's composition "Grant Us Peace," are $30.00 for adults and $25.00 for students and seniors. For reservations or more information, visit www.NJCS.org or call the New Jersey Choral Society at (201) 379-7719.
Edward A. Thomas