Original tune, secret guest get NETCS in holiday ‘mood’
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Dec. 1, 2006 - Each year, North East Texas Choral Society seems to outdo itself with an ever-more exceptional, well-received Christmas concert painstakingly prepared over the course of four months to lighten even the heaviest heart and guaranteed to kick the Christmas season off with a bang.

"I like to think that choral music does open heart surgery," said Carol Ruth Allen, NETCS Director. "It opens the heart for joy, for peace, and allows the spirit of Christmas to come in it and be filled. When you leave the concert and go outdoors, you'll be whistling a tune or humming a song you've always loved."

NETCS' presentation of "Gettin' in the Mood for Christmas" promises wonderful solos, audience sing-alongs, professional-level instrumentalists, and a fun spoof of a piece written by a choral society member.

There's also a surprise solo performance kept so hush-hush that neither chorus members nor the promise of a sold-out crowd for a truly fabulous performer could convince Allen to divulge the secret.

The concert, like the opening number, is entitled "Gettin' in the Mood for Christmas," a piece with words and music penned by charter member and singer Dr. Chuck Jones. The song was written as a "spoof on the fact that we start preparing for our Christmas program in August when its 105 degrees outside."

"It's so cute," said Allen. "It's really wonderful, just funny, funny, funny."

The song references turned up noses and mistletoes, and the fact that the singers by seasonal rights should be jumping into swimming pools instead of jingling bells.

"Getting in the Mood for Christmas" was arranged by accompanist Denise Grammer, with a little schtick thrown in by Linda Riddle.

The concert will also include renditions of the English carol "I Saw Three Ships," the Catalonian carol "Fum, Fum, Fum!" as well as "Glad Tidings of Joy," "Joyful, Joyful" and the "Good Christian Men Rejoice Medley." 

There will be several solo performances, including Mary Ann Rawson singing "Peace on the Earth"; "Joy" from "The Preacher's Wife" by Pam Hope; "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Mike Dodd; and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" performed by Jon Paul Dennis. Stephen Kramer and Caleb Frazier will perform a special drum solo during Benjamin Harlan's "African Alleluia." The quartet consisting of Beth Alsobrook, Beth Shurtleff, Karey Brice and Brittany Lamphere will sing the traditional Christmas hymn "Silent Night.

The big unknown of the night will be a surprise performance that not even the choral society singers know about.

"A lot of them its going to be Denisio Mala — it is not Denisio," Allen said. "I will say this: It involves someone who's only five feet tall. Who is going to be a complete and total mystery. The singers will see who it is at the same time as the audience."

And as a special treat Adrian McInvale, a young woman not yet 20 years old who both loves and studies the 1940s sound and female vocalists such as Rosemary Clooney, will show her mastery during a solo of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

McInvale is one of a number of performers who have several family members in NETCS. McInvale, her mother, father, a brother who travels in from college for Monday rehearsals, and her youngest sibling this are all involved this semester. 

The group also includes, for the first time ever, members from three generations of a family, including the grandmother, mother and granddaughter.

In addition to "Rudolph" another favorite the audience can look forward to is "Sleigh Ride," which coupled with "I'll Be Home For Christmas" are a trio of tunes which to many is the true representation and ushering in of the Christmas holiday, Allen said.

The group will do the choruses "For Unto Us a Child is Born," "And The Glory of the Lord," and "Glory to God" from Handel's "Messiah," accompanied by a string quartet and harpsichord.

"We are fortunate enough to be joined by a particularly wonderful group of instrumentalists, who are all professional musicians," Allen said.

The musicians include Ken Hanushek, Denise Grammer and Lyna Jane Bryan" on keyboards; Joe Clark on drums; Loren Seely on Bass; bell ringers Lydia Walden, Nevin Jackson, Sarah Kramer and Brittany Lamphere; Mike Dodd, chimes; Jeff Smith, clarinet and oboe; Kelley Fletcher, trumpet and piccolo trumpet; Dave Kirkpatrick, French horn; and Sarah Smith, Sarah Klein, Rebecca Dodson and Terry Vosse on strings.

The program will close with the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah."

"This is going to be a wonderful concert," Allen said. "This group of singers is one of the smallest groups of singers we've had, but its the best."

She said the strong men's sections, tenors and bass, are a large part of the overall perfect blend and sound which make up the 70-member singing chorus. She credited the singers' dedication in showing up every Monday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. during which they work hard poring their heart and soul into the music which really makes it live.

"They work so hard and have such joy for what they do. That is the backbone of the choral society, their true dedication," Allen praised.

In addition to its 70 members which include several clusters of family members, NETCS is composed of individuals of who are varied in age, outside interests, professions and even city of residence who join together once a month to share their love of song.

"This is not a stuffy concert. It's filled with the spirit of Christmas. It's fun, upbeat, has moments of beauty and moments of reflection.  ... It is my hope that many in the audience will picture themselves up on stage at the next concert. Maybe someone whose been holding back or thought 'I'd really like to do that' but just haven't had the time will audition and come home to choral society for its 10th year.

"Chorale music — there's nothing else quite like it. All human beings were made for singing."

Allen welcomes anyone interested in becoming part of NETCS and its next performance (the annual Cabaret fund raiser slated for Feb. 10, just in time for Valentine's Day) to audition at its next tryout on Jan. 15. NETCS has about 25 openings for all vocal parts. Those interested need need only show up Monday night, Jan. 15 in the choir room at First United Methodist Church in Sulphur Springs. Prepared music and an accompanist are not required.

Tickets to the annual Cabaret in First United Methodist Church cabaret generally sell out the weekend before the event, and for $30 the audience is entitle to "a fabulous dinner" on China, atop beautifully set tables in FUMC gymnasium which will be "transformed into a beautiful supper club" offering entertainment in the form of song, dance and comedy. 

Tickets are also still available for NETCS's "Gettin' in the Mood for Christmas" annual holiday concert which will be conducted twice this weekend — at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday — from the stage Hopkins County Regional Civic Center Auditorium. Tickets are available at local banks or from any choral society member in advance for $10 for adults and $5 for children, or may be purchased at the door for $12 for adults and $7 for children. They are good for either the Saturday or Sunday concert time, so if you have tickets and miss the Saturday performance, you can still catch it Sunday afternoon.

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