Olegar begins as organist and choir director at the Old First Church on Sunday, Dec. 2, at the special 2:30 p.m. service celebrating the church's 250th anniversary. He will assume weekly duties at both congregations on Sunday, Dec. 9. Sunday worship services begin at 9:30 a.m. at First Baptist, 601 Main Street, and at 11 a.m. at the Old First Church in Old Bennington.
As a career church musician, Olegar has served a variety of congregations in the Northeast, South, and Midwest, including cathedral and college positions. During the 1980s and '90s his work in the English choral tradition earned international recognition. More recently, his "Bach and Beyond" organ recital series in Great Barrington drew a large following as it yielded three CD recordings, one hailed by the prominent journal "The American Organist" for Olegar's "poetry and passion." Other accolades include some half-dozen first prizes in international choral competitions and festivals, including two consecutive wins in England's Elgar Festival, and an honorary degree from England's Wessex Theological College for his work promoting English church music in America.
A native of Akron, Ohio, Olegar's initial professional church music training was at the University of Akron and Cleveland Institute of Music, largely informed by the influence of the School of Sacred Music of New York's Union Theological Seminary, which at the time was providing the majority of America's church music practitioners and educators. Olegar's post-graduate studies took him to England's Royal School of Church Music, where he received tutelage from renowned choral musician Sir David Willcocks.
Olegar views Bennington as an exciting opportunity: "The community impresses me as tremendously fertile for music ministry at First Baptist and Old First churches, and both my wife and I absolutely adore the town and its Green Mountains locale!"
He sees his two assignments as complementing one another: "Each church impresses me as having a distinct personality that can be developed in tandem. I am especially looking forward to working with First Baptist's Rev. Jerrod Hugenot, and Old First's Rev. Kenneth Clarke, who have already communicated a stimulating sense of vision for vibrant music programs at their respective churches. I am truly thrilled to be able to aid in this mission."
Charles Olegar resides in Troy, N.Y., with his wife, Jane, and several pets. In addition to his music-based hobbies, he is a classic motorcar enthusiast and avid gardener.