Members of the Tennessee Chamber Chorus, a local music ensemble that held its very first concert in December, have been making plans to expand their musical reach to audiences beyond Cleveland.
Since then, the group has begun to see an increase in the number of opportunities to sing for more than just Cleveland residents, beginning with a concert in Signal Mountain Tuesday night after a Monday night Cleveland performance.
The Tennessee Chamber Chorus is a 16-member choir made up of professional singers who perform a variety of music within the choral music genre. It follows a “project choir” model, meaning that each singer practices on his or her own before meeting to practice together just a few days before scheduled concerts.
When the Cleveland-based choir first started, the group’s director and conductor, Dr. Cameron LaBarr, said it was the only group of its kind in the area.
The group’s upcoming concert is titled “Atlantic Crossings” and will feature both American music and music from the United Kingdom that has — just as the title implies — crossed the Atlantic Ocean to reach American ears.
A major part of the UK influence will come in the form of James Whitbourn's “Son of God Mass,” which was written with parts for a choir, an organ and a soprano saxophone. The performance of that piece will feature organist Mary Beth Wickes and soprano saxophonist Alan Wyatt. The group will also perform the song “MLK” originally by Irish rock band U2 and inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., among others.
The second half of the concert will feature works by American composers such as William Billings, Alice Parker and Adolphus Hailstork. It will also feature several familiar folk hymns, including some originating in the Appalachian region.
As with the group’s first concert, LaBarr said the group will make use of the concert locations — both of them churches — by performing in different parts of the space as the music suits. He said the audience should not expect to have to stare at the front of the room the entire time.
But he did say people should expect the music to be better than ever.
LaBarr said he was pleased with how the group got its start and expressed hope that the community would continue to support it.
“Our first concert was a success,” LaBarr said, also noting that it was “very, very well-attended.”
There have been some changes in the choir’s membership. While many of the same singers from the December concert will perform this week, some are new.
Current members include Caitlin Hammon, Meg Granum, Carly Wingfield and Sara Snider-Schone, sopranos; Susan LaBarr, Kaylee Gallagher, Andrea Dismukes and Priscilla Wortman, altos; Dirk Johnson, Lee Rose, Harv Wileman and Blaine Tooley, tenors; and Chris Oglesby, Kevin Combs, Aaron Murphy and Jason Thoms, bass.
The group’s members come from a variety of places, some living elsewhere and some living locally. New additions to the choir include a bass singer from New York and a soprano who recently moved to the Cleveland area from Canada.
Those singing with the Tennessee Chamber Chorus have other experience in music to draw from; some even teach music. LaBarr himself is an assistant professor of music at Lee University.
He said all the collective experience the choir members have under their belts allows them the freedom to try new things.
“We’d like to continue to challenge people artistically,” LaBarr said. “We’re able to produce something of a really great quality.”
He said one the group’s goals is to perform music that allows the audiences to connect to the songs in new ways, in ways that are “innovative yet familiar.”
“It’s all in sort of reinventing the choral art,” he said. “We’re still in the early stages of the organization, though.”
He anticipated that future concerts would take place at least twice a year, and he said he hopes the group will eventually be able to hold even more performances and find new venues throughout East Tennessee. In addition to regular concerts, the group is slated to perform at a conference for choral music directors next year.
To help pay for some of its expenses, the choir has teamed up with a music publishing company to record music. When a new piece of sheet music is written with a choir in mind, such companies like to record an actual choir singing the piece so consumers know what it should sound like. But he also said he would like to see the choir eventually be able to do a studio recording of its own.
The group is also in the process of filing to gain the status of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is hoping for continued support in the form of concert attendance and donations, he said.
The Tennessee Chamber Chorus will hold concerts this coming Monday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland and on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Signal Mountain. Tickets for either show are $15 for regular seating and $25 for premium seating.
Tickets for both shows and information about other ways one can support the group can be found online at http://www.tennesseechamberchorus.org or on Facebook.