North East Texas Choral Society: It’s everything a community chorus should be
By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor
May 7, 2007 - There were some great moments at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center Sunday afternoon. More than 70 men and women of the North East Texas Choral Society took the stage, opened their songbook and lifted their voices to the heavens. The audience applauded and the angels smiled.
The theme for the society’s spring show was “Climb Every Mountain,” and the songs were chosen for their ability to inspire and uplift, according to the society’s director Carol Allen. The set list did not disappoint.
The society’s talented pianist Denise Grammer set the tone, beginning “This Little Light of Mine,” in near darkness.
As the song progressed, the lights came up and some of the singers came down through the audience and onto the stage, clapping their hands and encouraging everyone to sing along.
The group then launched into “Climb Every Mountain,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” also known as the theme song for some great Coca-Cola commercials a while back.
Then, the singers tackled the overture to “The Barber of Seville.” Rossini’s score is no small undertaking and they nailed it.
I couldn’t help noticing two women on the top row to the left. Lydia Walden and C.J. Crawford were moving to the beat and having a ball.
As if Rossini’s Barber wasn’t tough enough, the chorus’ next selection was the great spiritual “Elijah Rock.” The male part of the chorus really stood out, hitting the notes dead center.
�The Impossible Dream,� a smattering of Broadway and Manhattan Melodies were up next.�
Then, George Irwin and Gary Spraggins stepped up to the microphone and led the group in a moving cover of “Ol’ Man River.”
Spraggins made the crowd and the chorus laugh out loud after the number when he plugged his candidacy in the upcoming city council election.
After intermission, chorus members had a moment at the microphone to introduce themselves. It was a personal touch that once again helped the audience connect with the performers.
Marlon Chisom then delivered a spot-on interpretation of Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind.”
The singers really strutted their stuff with an almost-all a cappella spin on the great folk tune “Shenandoah.”
The group went to the movies next with “As Time Goes By” and then the women covered Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
The men took over and did a stirring rendition of “Bring Him Home,” from the musical “Les Miserables.”
Prior to the number, Allen told the crowd that the song was dedicated to the men and women who serve our country and put themselves in harms’ way for our sake.
�We�re not about red states or blue states,� she said from the podium on the stage. �We�re not about donkeys or elephants. We�re about honoring those who serve.�
Staying in the inspiration vein, the group launched into a rousing “Order My Steps.” Of particular mention here is Allen’s clear connection with her singers.
During this number, Allen was animated, stomping her feet and swaying to the powerful music. She was feeling every note. She was urging her singers to go along for the ride. And they obliged. It was a perfect melding of director and directed.
I’m not sure where Allen found the arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” but I hope the group includes it in future shows.
It begins quietly, expertly introduced by Grammer on the piano and builds to a dramatic finish.
The group closed with the powerful standard “Come Thou Fount” and finale “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”
�This group is the perfect example of what a community chorus should be,� Allen said after the performance. �We have people from every walk of life, every persuasion, every denomination, churched and non-churched. We are many voices and many viewpoints coming together to bring music to our corner of the world.�
North East Texas is blessed to have Allen and the Choral Society. The heart of the world’s great music flows through them from behind the footlights to their audiences, leaving everyone smiling and uplifted.
Mark your calendars for the first weekend in December. The chorus will again be in concert. Be there. You won’t be sorry.