Choral Society Presents Holiday Concert
From the first notes of the stirring carol "Joy to the World" to a finale of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," sung in a unique rhythm, the 90-plus singers of the Moore County Choral Society are raising their voices to "Sing for Joy" as they present their annual holiday concert this weekend at Sandhills Community College's Owens Auditorium.
Founded in 1975, the society has developed from a nucleus of 18 people in an evening class in choral music at the college to a full-fledged chorus of just under 100 singers in the last three decades. Their concerts the first week of December have become a holiday tradition in the Sandhills, and at their spring concerts the society has presented sacred masterpieces of choral music.
The "Sing For Joy" concert Saturday, Dec. 5, and Sunday, Dec. 6, as well as the upcoming spring concert on April 18, honor the 35th anniversary of the establishment of this group of dedicated singers, past and present. They represent a wide spectrum of ages from teens to seniors, and are teachers, students, business and professional people and active retirees.
An original member, Katherine Ewing, who is a graduate of the Westminster Choir College in New Jersey, recalls that when she first moved to the Sandhills, she looked for a choral society like the one she had belonged to in Virginia.
"We received help from the Arts Council to get us started," she says, "and it's been a great experience to sing in everything from an early production of 'The Mikado' to a performance of Beethoven's 'Ninth Symphony' with the North Carolina Symphony to Daniel Pinkham's 'Christmas Cantata,'on the program for this concert."
Longtime members of MCCS, sopranos Alzira Mason and Billie Joyce Hill and tenor Charlie Cook agree that singing with the group has its own special rewards.
Mason, a soloist in New York City churches before moving to Southern Pines, points to the MCCS performance of Haydn's "The Creation" and Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" with the Fayetteville Symphony as two of the high spots in past years. Cook mentions singing the "Verdi Requiem" several years ago as one of his favorite concerts, and Billie Joyce Hill, when asked why she has kept her membership in MCCS over the years, refers to all the beautiful music they get an opportunity to perform and says simply, "I love it."
Conductor Anne Dorsey, who has been leading the Moore County Choral Society for the last seven years, says one of the more positive changes she has noticed is the number of high school students who have recently joined the group. They have come in as a result of the encouragement of James Brown, the choral director at Pinecrest High School, who is a member of the MCCS.
"The addition of their voices brings a lot to the overall sound of the group," she says.
Jennifer Archer is one of James Brown's students.
"He recommended that I could get a different type of experience singing with an established adult group," Archer says. "Choral work definitely teaches you to be humble. At this stage everything is all about you, and to become a part of a larger group and make your voice blend in with the others to achieve one sound gives you a necessary focus and real satisfaction."
Now in her 30th year of teaching in North Carolina's public school system at the high school and middle school level, Anne Dorsey is presently director of choral music at North Moore High School. One of her students at North Moore, Jesica Forrest has also joined the MCCS.
Forrest, and her mother, Sherry, attended last year's Christmas concert, and were so impressed with what they heard that they wanted to contribute their voices to the mix. Both are members of their church choir, but say singing with the larger group brings them a heightened sense of accomplishment, even though it's been a challenge to learn a piece such as "Maoz Tsaur," a Hanukkah hymn sung in Hebrew at this concert.
Tenor Lester Taylor is also a recent member of the society. Originally from Jamaica, he was a resident of New York City, where he sang with three choirs, before coming to the Sandhills just over a year ago.
"I was pleased to find such a fine group here," he says. "It's a very uplifting experience, particularly singing under such a good director."
Selecting the music to be performed at both the holiday and the spring concert is a huge task that takes conductor-director Anne Dorsey the better part of her summer.
"Picking the music means poring over listings of thousands of pieces of music to determine which ones fit the theme of the concert, and listening to the possible selections occupies many hours before I pull it all together," she says.
The music Dorsey has chosen for the concert includes a number of pieces from foreign countries and cultures. Traditional carols from Latvia and Estonia are on the program as well as an African Noel and a Russian anthem. The second half of the concert centers on songs from the lighter, secular side of the holidays. The MCCS Ensemble, a separate entity within the total group, will perform such tunes as "White Christmas" and "Santa Baby," while an arrangement of "Holiday Favorites," sung by the entire chorus, leads up to the grand finale.
Accompanist for the Moore County Choral Society is MariJo Brown, and instrumentalists for the Christmas concert include the Moore Brass with Wayne Osborne and Kyle McLean on percussion. Dorsey smiles as she talks about Osborne's selection of nontraditional instruments that he has provided for past concerts.
"You never know what he will bring," she says. "One year he added a garden hoe to his usual instrumentation, another time it was a brake drum -- but in each case, the sound absolutely fitted the music."
The sound of the Moore Brass features Chris Dunn, executive director of the Arts Council of Moore County, and Rob Hill, director of Union Pines High School Band on trumpets. They are joined by Chris Shaw on trombone, and the husband and wife team of Kim and Davis Clark rounding out the quintet on French horn and tuba, respectively.
Brighten up your holiday season by attending one of the two concerts that the Moore County Choral Society will present this weekend. The dates and times for the performances are Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon, Dec. 6, at 4 pm at Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $7.50 for students, and are available at the Campbell House and The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, at Kirk Tours in Pinehurst, and at The Coffee Scene in Seven Lakes, or at the door.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at email@example.com.
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