Choral Arts comes to HCC

April 22, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

"It's wonderful to watch a group of 80 people come together and create something," said Gregory Shook, artistic and music director of Hagerstown Choral Arts.

The chorus - currently 86 voices - is in its 11th season and will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at Kepler Theater on the campus of Hagerstown Community College.

For Shook, the appeal of singing is simple.

"The voice is created by us," he said. "We are the instrument. We are the source of the song."

There's nothing between the singer and the song. "What you see is what you get," Shook said.

What you'll get at the Saturday concert is a variety of choral music.

Classical selections include George Frideric Handel's "Sing Unto God" and Gabriel Faure's "Cantique de Jean Racine."

Hagerstown Choral Arts also will perform an arrangement of Walt Whitman's "I hear America Singing." The Whitman piece is something good to share, Shook said. "We need that now," he added.


HCA will be "feelin' groovy" with its version of Simon and Garfunkel's hit "The 59th Street Bridge Song," and the ensemble will sing music from the film version of "The Lord of the Rings."

Saturday's performance at Kepler will be the chorus' first at HCC, part of a new affiliation with the college. Although there are none involved in this first semester, HCC students will be able to earn college credit for singing and playing with the Hagerstown Choral Arts.

"We're excited about this," Shook said.

Younger students, however, will be part of the concert.

HCA previously has worked with Washington County Pubic Schools choruses. Shook said he's happy to provide an opportunity to showcase the talents of local youngsters.

Ryan Chaney is principal clarinet in Clear Spring High School's wind ensemble and drum major of the school's Blazer Marching Band. A member of both All-County High School Band and Orchestra, Ryan plays clarinet in both the Hagerstown Municipal and Williamsport Community bands.

He will perform selections from "Five Bagatelles" by Gerald Finzi.

Seventy-five members of Springfield Middle School's eighth-grade chorus will perform four songs. Two seventh-grade soloists will join the ensemble, which usually numbers 90 students. Baseball season is a busy time of year, laughed Michelle Rafter, director of choral music.

"It's just very thrilling to be asked - to be included," she said.

Rafter appreciates the opportunity for her students to learn beyond the school day and to share a concert stage with the Hagerstown chorus under Shook's direction. The eighth-graders are nervous but excited, Rafter said.

The students and Hagers-town Choral Arts will join their voices in singing "This Is the Day."

Shook is pastor at Woodbridge (Va.) Church of the Brethren and travels to Hagers-town for the ensemble's rehearsals every Tuesday night.

How long does it take?

"It depends," he laughed. Traffic in the Washington, D.C., metro area can be a challenge, but Shook said it's worth every minute of the drive.

He's always looking for new voices - especially altos and men. He's had people who are interested in joining but worried that they aren't "good" singers.

"Yes, you are," he reassures them.

Shook leads the ensemble, but he needs the people to sing.

"We've just developed such a network," he said. "It's wonderful to get more and more."

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