YMCA chorus tuning up for 13th year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Jeff Ward, the executive director of the Suffolk YMCA for the past seven years, said he hopes the number 13 will be a lucky one for the YMCA Community Chorus in 2003.

Members received letters early December informing them of the first rehearsal on Monday, Jan. 13, at King’s Fork Elementary School; and Sarah Burford, a ninth-year member, has been busy phoning members this week to ask them if they were planning

to return. Participants are obligated to rehearse from 7 to 9 p.m. every Monday until concert time on Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27.

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Doug Shoemaker, the director of Music Ministries at Ebenezer United Methodist Church and the music and band director at Gates County High School, will make his second appearance as chorus director.

The purpose is to provide scholarships to summer camp at the Suffolk &uot;Y&uot; for children and families in need.

According to Ward, the concerts last year brought in $10,000, which benefited 200 children to be enrolled in summer camp. This camp begins in June and ends in late August.

&uot;During 2002, we have seen our level of demand for financial assistance increase dramatically from previous years,&uot; he said. &uot;Currently we provide assistance to over 700 families. Our goal is to do our very best not to turn anyone away because of their inability to afford a program fee.&uot;

The YMCA Community Chorus was formed in 1990 by Martha Callis to generate funding to send underprivileged youths to a Christian Summer Camp at the YMCA.

Talmadge Darden had been the director for several years, and when he announced that he would be giving that position up to devote full attention into his job as principal of the newly built Kings Fork Elementary School, members thought that 2001 would be the last year that concerts would be presented. Many tears were shed during the concerts in 2001.

In an effort to save a then 11 years tradition, Ward asked members at their last rehearsal in 2001 how many would be interested in continuing to sing in the chorus. He then contacted Shoemaker, also a member, and asked him if he would take over as the new director to which Shoemaker said that he would.

After that task had been completed, he contacted Burford and asked her to help him to call members about attending a rehearsal in January 2002. The majority of members agreed to come back for the 12th year, and the Suffolk YMCA Community Chorus was off and running under new leadership.

Darden said once that he would always be a part of the group whether he performed with them or not; therefore, he offered his new facility, Kings Fork Elementary School, for rehearsals and concerts.

This move was very convenient for the chorus because in years prior to that decision rehearsals were held at Main Street Methodist Church.

They were moved in the weeks prior to concerts to Lakeland or Nansemond River high Schools, wherever concerts were going to be held during a particular year so that the chorus could get the feel of the stage and for audio technicians to test the sound system.

Last year there were 85 people representing 29 churches. At one point the choir was 110 voices strong representing over 35 churches.

If you are a member and haven’t been contacted or if you would like to be a first-time participant, please contact Ward or Cindy Butts at the YMCA: 934-9622. It is important that you let these people know as soon as possible because music has to be ordered and provided for each participant. Everyone’s favorite music is usually performed in one single concert such as religious, gospel, and anthem selections, rock, soul and country music. Your personal input and suggestions are also welcomed.

&uot;We are opening up for new singers all over the city of Suffolk and surrounding areas and hope that we will get at least 100 people to participate in the year 2003,&uot; said Ward.