From the stage at Katie Belle’s to the altar of St. Timothy’s, Maestro Bill Doherty’s faith in music and people enables him to rise above the challenge of the Coronavirus.
COVID-19 contributed to the closure of Katie Belle’s, longtime Villages’ home for Doherty’s popular Singing Servers. The virus also postponed public Masses at St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church, where Doherty is music director and pianist. He directs the church choir of about 100 singers, which once performed with Doherty in Rome for a Papal Mass.
The Coronavirus also halted performances from nationally known artists who Doherty, head of the Central Florida Lyric Opera, often presents here.
Somehow, though, Doherty, as he has for over a decade in The Villages, continues to advance the artistic and spiritual lifestyle of this community.
“One thing I’ve learned in life is that you have to keep believing and you have to keep going. The only constant is change,” Doherty said. “My life hasn’t slowed down.”
He hopes to eventually find a new restaurant where the Singing Servers – a group of young, talented singers who also serve customers – will have a chance to make music and earn money.
St. Timothy has resumed some public Masses, but for the past two months, Doherty provided the music for the live video stream of church services. He continues to do so for daily video Masses at 8:30 a.m. For information, visit https://sttimothycc.com/.
He also will soon begin a live video stream of his own music and talk show, “Maestro Bill Doherty’s Talent Explosion.” It debuts on May 28 at 2 and 7 p.m. For information, go to https://www.centralfloridalyricopera.org/.
Grit, dedication and optimism are Doherty trademarks.
“He has such a passion for life and music; he keeps on going and he keeps giving,” said Gerri Piscitelli, president of the Opera Club of The Villages. “Bill has done so much for young performers here. He has allowed opera to thrive in The Villages.”
Piscitelli doubts there would be an opera club without Doherty. He organizes and performs at the club’s annual fundraising concert. His Central Florida Lyric Opera has guided the careers of countless young performers. Doherty was a teacher and mentor to Fernando Varela.
“Bill is a wonderful teacher but his real genius is that he does so many things so well,” Piscitelli said. “He brings world class-talent to The Villages and he creates opportunity for young performers. That’s what the Singing Servers are all about: A chance for these young singers to get work and make some money to survive.”
Doherty finds solace in music.
“A lot of bad things have happened because of this pandemic,” he said. “But I think one of the good things is about entertainment and music, and what it means to us.
“We’ve had a chance to see performers and singers as human beings. They are singing in their own homes. You feel like you get to know them on a personal level.”
It was that way for the Singing Servers. Doherty first started the concept in New York City and Orlando, before bringing it to The Villages about a decade ago.
Such performers as Devin Eatmon and Heather Ard have performed with the group that sings Broadway show tunes and opera.
“We’ve been at Katie Belle’s for about four years and we usually sell out Friday night shows,” Doherty said. “It was great; we loved the staff and everybody who worked there. We’re hoping to find a new venue. I can’t give you a date, but when things get better, we will be back at a restaurant in The Villages.”
St. Timothy was another positive lesson for Doherty in dealing with the pandemic.
“I know it’s hard not to be able to go to Mass in person,” he said. “Live streaming was something new for St. Tim’s and I think it was positive and uplifting. We were able – and are still able – to reach parishioners who have to stay home.”
Doherty also produces many stage shows and local productions. He had to postpone a “Broadway Stars” show that featured Grant Norman, who starred in “The Phantom” on Broadway. Doherty said it will be rescheduled for a later date, hopefully in the fall.
“I’ve got some ideas and I’m working on some shows but I really can’t do much right now,” he said. “We have to wait to see what happens. Things are getting better all the time.”
Until then, Doherty is focused on his talk show and music video stream.
“This is a great tool to show another side of the people I know in the entertainment business,” he said. “We will talk, and then we’ll perform.”
The upcoming guest list includes Grant Norman, Grammy-Award winner Molly Fillmore and Rene Lawless, star of the OWN television series “The Haves and The Haves Not.”
“It’s going to be fun,” Doherty said.
People in The Villages and the world need some fun right now.
“It’s a hard time for all of us,” Doherty said. “But I’ve been impressed with the way most Villagers have taken this pandemic seriously. In church, I see everybody with a mask, and following social distancing. People here care for each other.
“I don’t know if we will ever get back to normal, but there will be a new normal. And we will get back together again.”
Gerri Piscitelli believes Doherty will help make that happen.
“The world has changed in the past few months but Bill is doing what he always does – helping young people and bringing music to The Villages,” she said.