Voices raise for community choir

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By Kate Darnell

It’s Thursday evening and 50 pairs of tapping feet have gathered for choir practice.

“Altos, where’s your pitch?” director Karen Bear asked the middle group of women - all part of the first-ever community choir.

With hands in the air and glasses perched at the tip of her nose, Karen Bear motioned for the perfect pitch.

Beth Laytart followed with an accompanying piano note.

“Can we go on or do you need it one more time?” Bear asked.

The altos, they responded, were good.

In the tenor and bass sections at the left side of the MCTC/LVC classroom, sat 16 men - a retired hospital director, a county magistrate, a realtor/auctioneer and a middle school student.

On the ladies’ side to the right, bank vice president Susan Dearborn sat beside realtor Beverly Cooper, far in front of retired teacher/lawyer Sue Lake in the back.

“I joined the choir because I thought it would be a fun and very interesting experience,” Dearborn said.

Dearborn and other members of the Licking Valley Singers came together at the beginning of September to begin rehearsing for their performance at the Cynthiana Arts Council’s Autumn Afternoon on Sunday, Nov. 1.

“Autumn Afternoon is an Arts Council tradition,” Bear said. “The Arts Council wants to provide an opportunity for our community to enjoy an artistic performance on a Sunday afternoon in early fall.”

And this year’s Autumn Afternoon will feature the community choir and other local artists - Cynthiana’s own “home-grown” talent, Bear said.

“We will be singing a variety of songs from a madrigal to folk to swing,” Bear said. “I selected the pieces for their variety in style and range of difficulty.”

And the songs aren’t the only thing about the community choir that is diverse.

“The choir is made up of teenagers and adults ranging in age from 13 years old to who knows how old,” Bear said. “We also have a wide range of musical experience – from degreed musicians that teach music to non-music readers who simply love to sing.”

But while their backgrounds, age and lives might be totally different, Bear said music is the one sure similarity.

“While some know one another, most are meeting each other for the first time and are enjoying simply sharing their collective interest - their love of singing...” Bear said.

For Jerry Dawson, the community choir allowed him the opportunity to use the choral experience he gained in college, the State Farm Bureau Chorus, several church choirs, amateur contests and lots of singing in the shower.

“I just enjoy music,” Dawson said.

“When it comes to singing – backgrounds, age differences, and varied occupations don’t come into play,” said Bear. “We are all there for the same reason – to make music...”

And have fun.

“I think it’s great that someone took enough interest and gave this small community a choir like this,” said Erica Cope. “It’s not only something to do, it’s fun.”

Now 22 years old, Cope said she caught her passion for singing in school, where she was a member of several school choirs.

“Not all of us are made for the Lexington Singers, but this gives us a fair shake and a chance to stretch our vocal horizons,” she said.

The community choir, it appears, isn’t just fun for the members.

“I’m having a ball,” Bear said.

The choir has already exceeded Bear’s expectations., who imagined a choir of only 20 singers. There are almost 50 Licking Valley Singers.

“What I am completely impressed with is this group’s discipline during rehearsal, their respect for the learning environment and their willingness to try and implement all that I ask them to do vocally with respect to good singing,” Bear said. “We get a lot accomplished because they follow good rehearsal etiquette and we have fun working through the music.”

Bear said the Licking Valley Singers, sponsored by the Arts Council and a grant through MCTC/LVC, will continue making music as long as there is a desire for a community choir.

“I’d like to see it grow,” she said.

This year’s Autumn Afternoon  will be held at the Cynthiana Presbyterian Church, beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and will be available at the door or in advance at MCTC/LVC.