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Ellijay, GA
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Community Chorus spring concert April 18

The Gilmer Arts Community Chorus will perform a program of choral, spiritual and secular music during its spring concert this Saturday at the Gilmer High School Theater. (Contributed photo)
Gilmer Arts Community Chorus performs spring concert April 18

by Michael Andrews

Members of the Gilmer Arts Community Chorus will lend their voices to an uplifting mix of sacred and secular works during the vocal ensemble’s spring concert Saturday, April 18, at the Gilmer High School Theater. The concert is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Since 2013, the community choral group has filled a void for local folks who want to sing in a choir, but don’t wish to travel to another county, said Gilmer Arts president John Rathbone.

“The year-round community chorus program has been very successful over the past three years (and) it’s the only big choir in the county. There wasn't such an organization here prior to January 2013 and this is our fifth season in a row,” said Rathbone.

Saturday’s spring concert, the first of two seasonal shows scheduled for 2015, will feature works derived from the songbooks of early 20th century composers like Randall Thompson and Nathaniel Dett, from modern day choral figures like Norway’s Ola Gjeilo and from the beloved stage musical “West Side Story.”

“We have some sacred and some spiritual works, some folk songs and some showtunes. It’s a good sampling of lots of different types of music,” said Lisa Lacey, one of the ensemble’s four conductors alongside Charles Bryant, Charles Claiborne and Sarah Harbin.

One of the featured selections, the Scottish folk tune “Skye Boat Song,” recently experienced a revival of sorts after being used in a popular, historically-themed sci-fi series.

“The Scottish theme we are doing about the Isle of Skye is the theme music to the hit Starz TV show ‘Outlander,”’ said Rathbone. “We’ll be singing that folk song, which happens to also be the theme to the TV show. Not for that reason specifically, it just happened to work out that way.”

Ranging from teens to senior citizens, the chorus’ membership is exemplary of a true community undertaking.

“We have 50-plus voices singing on a regular basis with people from all over. We have under 20-year-olds, 20 to 40-year-olds, 40 to 60 and from 70 on up. It’s very reflective of the community,” said Rathbone.

“There are people from all walks of life and musical experiences –– some are trained, some have sung with other organizations or choirs in the past and some just enjoy singing as a hobby,” said Lacey.

Singing in the chorus gives those people a forum where they can make good use of a shared interest.

“They enjoy having an opportunity to sing in a rehearsed group where they have to know what they’re doing. It’s not just humming in the bathroom,” said Rathbone. “The camaraderie of being able to experience the joy of singing with other like-minded folks they probably would otherwise never have the opportunity to meet is a big part of it.”

“The people (make it fun). It’s a great mix of personalities –– being able to sing here in Ellijay with a group that has some real talent,” said Lacey.

With the continuing popularity of TV series and movies built around the vocal power of the human voice –– Glee, The Voice and Pitch Perfect among them –– singing has become somewhat of an unofficial national pastime.

“(Singing) sort of goes through phases where its big for a while and then something else takes over. But, at least in the United States, it’s always been a favorite pastime of individuals, both hobbyists and professionals,” said Rathbone.

Organized under the direction of local nonprofit Gilmer Arts, the community chorus, like other projects presented by the downtown Ellijay arts organization, is made possible through the cooperation of volunteers.

“I think that spirit of volunteerism is a wonderful thing and it’s a good example of how most everything Gilmer Arts does is produced through the work of volunteers,” said Rathbone.

When concert time arrives, that work will result in a clean, affordable night of music for the whole family.

“We want everybody to come,” said Rathbone. “Admission is $10 and children under 12 are free when accompanied by an adult. It’s a wonderful program of choral works, (so) bring your friends and neighbors to a nice community event.” 
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