A Joyful Noise
North East Texas Choral Society members bringing music that inspires to this weekend’s concert
By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor
Apr. 30, 2007 - Walk into a rehearsal of the North East Texas Choral Society on any Monday evening and you'll immediately feel a dozen different waves of joy rushing around the room.
Joy rushes from director Carol Allen to her singers. The singers take in the happiness and send it back to the director's podium. Joy also emanates from the keyboard of Denise Grammer, pianist for the group.
During a recent rehearsal, choral society members worked on numbers for its upcoming spring concert, set for this weekend, Saturday, May 5, and Sunday, May 6.
"This year's theme is 'Climb Every Mountain,'” Allen said after a recent run through. "The theme that runs through this concert is to press on, to never give up and to be encouraged."
On the set list for the May show are inspirational songs like "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," "Amazing Grace," "Come Thou Fount," "Danny Boy," and "Homeward Bound," an old American folk tune, not to be confused with the Simon and Garfunkel hit.
"We're also going to have a section of the performance dedicated to our men and women who serve around the world, in harm's way, to protect us," Allen said. "We have a lot of ex-military in our group, so this section is very close to our hearts."
The North East Texas Choral Society was formed in 1998. At the time, Allen was a member of the Sulphur Springs Symphony League board. The symphony's director needed a community chorus for a show he was putting together.
"At a meeting the director said, 'We need a community chorus,' and Lee Heisey looked down the table at me and said, 'Carol, when are we going to do that?'"
Heisey looked to the right person to organize a choral society.
According to information on the society's website, Allen has spent her life involved in singing and music.
She was a member of the New Jersey All-State Choir during her high school years. She toured Europe for a year and a half singing with a band. She studied music at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls. She continued to study voice after marriage and during motherhood. She's recorded an album of Christian songs and taught high school choir for two years.
No wonder the singers under her direction pay attention when she's at the podium.
Allen is the only director the society has known. She's their own Tom Landry. Cool. Calm. Collected. And totally in control of the 100 voices at her command.
"We know to follow her," said Michael Dodd, a founding member of the society. "Or else."
Dodd's favorite number in the current set list is "Bring Him Home," where the men do their version of the moving ballad from the musical "Les Misérables."
Allen says her favorite moments of any show are when the chorus "really connects" with the audience.
"We work really, really hard to break down that invisible wall between the stage and the audience," Allen said. "Our goal is to become one with the audience. If they're really motivated, they'll not only sing along with us, they'll get up in the aisles and dance."
The chorus ends each performance with the same benediction.
"When we first started, we sang, 'I Believe,'" Allen said.
"Then we did 'A Gaelic Blessing,'" said Dodd. "We sang 'The Lord Bless You and Keep You' at a funeral and we started singing it at the end of our rehearsals and our programs."
Allen said 95 percent of their entire practices end with the benediction.
"It resonates with everyone," Allen said. "It doesn't matter what denomination you are, the words hit home."
The chorus holds auditions twice a year and currently has between 75 and 100 singers on its roster.
The chorus mounts two concerts the same time every year.
"We do a show on the first weekend in May and a show on the first weekend in December," Allen said. "We also do a Cabaret, our main fundraiser, early in the year."
Allen says her goal is to sell out every performance, every time.
"What pleases us the most is when a member of the audience comes up to us after the show and says, 'I don't know what took me so long to find you, but now that I have, I won't ever miss another performance,'" said Allen. "That's why we do this."
The Northeast Texas Choral Society will present "Climb Every Mountain" on Saturday, May 5, at 7 p.m. and again on Sunday, May 6, at 2 p.m. at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center auditorium.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and can be purchased at area banks, the Civic Center box office or from choral society members.
For more information about purchasing tickets or the choral society, call 903-903-885-2949 or visit their website, www.netchoral.org.