What makes a song “Unforgettable”? How does a tune remain popular through the years? Why do a few musical notes and a touch of poetry sometimes give us goose bumps?
The 85 singers of the North East Texas Choral Society will answer these questions by sharing some of their favorite romantic selections with audiences during “Unforgettable,” their Spring show at the Hopkins County Civic Center on Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8.
The group has been working on the program since January.
“Rehearsals are going so well,” said Carol Allen, NETCS’ musical director during a recent interview. “A couple of weeks ago every song that had a solo in it, the soloist really stepped it up and nailed it. Then, a week ago, the ensembles really began to happen.”
Allen and her singers are breaking new ground with this performance.
“For the first time ever, I have pulled an ensemble out of choral society,” she explained. “Eighteen voices will be singing Chuck Jones’ arrangement of ‘Our Love is Here to Stay.’”
Backing the singers this year are Kurt Bittner on guitar, Ben Scarborough on bass, Caleb Frazier on drums and Jeff Smith on woodwinds, along with Denise Stuart, Kenneth Hanushek and Deanna Spraggins on piano.
“I would take these musicians anywhere,” Allen said.
Allen promises several special moments during the performances.
“Jon Paul Dennis is coming back to reprise his cover of ‘In the Still of the Night,’” she said. “He owns that song.”
Also on the roster are “Blue Moon,” Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.”
Lisa Pearl will step into the spotlight during the Cline number.
“Our Patsy Cline is almost better than the original,” Allen said. “She sings the socks off that song.”
The group is also doing a few songs from the first season of TV’s hit series “Glee.”
“Although the Glee section is one of the hardest things we’ve ever put together, they’re wailing on it now,” Allen explained. “It’s rhythmically and technically and note-wise just difficult to put it all together. It ain’t hymn singing.”
In some of the program’s more tender moments, Allen features the men and women separately.
“The men are singing ‘When I Fall in Love,’” she said. “It’s a stand up moment.”
The girls have their turn to shine, too.
“The women are singing ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’” Allen said. “They sing it as only women can sing. It is a rip-your-heart-open sound.”
Perhaps the most poignant part of the set list comes during the group’s cover of “Somewhere,” from “West Side Story.”
“We’ve only done it at one other concert years ago,” Allen explained. “The way the arranger has put this together is like a whispered prayer that spins all the way to the end of the song. You don’t hear the word ‘Amen,’ but you feel it.”
When asked what it feels like to conduct 85 voices during a number like “Somewhere,” Allen became introspective.
“I feel like, as the one who just conducted this, I’m standing two feet off the ground,” she explained. “I really do feel transported by the song. When we finished with it last week, I held them and held them and held them [after the song’s last note]. When I closed it, I didn’t move. When I finally released them, I whispered into the microphone, ‘The audience will not breathe until we let them go.’”
During the past 13 years, the North East Texas Choral Society has mastered the art of enchantment. Let them cast their “Unforgettable” spell on you.
“Unforgettable” will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 8. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and are available at all local banks, from NETCS members or at the group’s website, www.netchoral.org.
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