Singers join in to keep Ann Arbor Civic Chorus a popular club

Members of the Ann Arbor Civic Chorus at a recent Monday night practice.
Members of the Ann Arbor Civic Chorus at a recent Monday night practice.

Ann Arbor Civic Chorus Spring Concert
When: 3 p.m., Sunday, April 25
Where: Forsythe Middle School Auditorium, 1655 Newport Road.
Cost: Free.
Other: The chorus rehearses weekly on Mondays from 7-9 p.m. at Slauson Middle School. Light classical pieces, standards, and selections from the Broadway stage are performed. Placement interviews are required to participate; call Linda Jones at (734) 761-2497.

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

When Evan Padgitt is away from his singing, he admits “there’s something missing.” The Ann Arbor resident sings in multiple choral groups, including the 27-year-old Ann Arbor Civic Chorus.

“There’s something about music that relaxes and releases stress,” said Padgitt, who works as a nurse practitioner by day. He has participated in the Civic Chorus in both the fall and winter since 1991, and said during the summer months “I get a little crabby without it.”

The other thing that keeps him coming back, he said, are the friendships that develop over time; many chorus members go to dinner together on Monday nights after practice.

Run by the Ann Arbor Public Schools Community Education and Recreation Department, the program has offered Ann Arbor-area residents a chance to sing their hearts out since 1983. It is run as a class, costing $185 per year for residents or $215 per year for non-residents. Singers can also sign up by semester for $95 for residents or $114 for non-residents.

Although the 60-member chorus is a longstanding tradition in Ann Arbor, this year it has a new musical director, Linda Jones, a new accompanist, Ted Wyman, and several new voices.

Linda Jones leads the Civic Chorus in rehearsal, which takes place every Monday evening at Slauson Middle School.
Linda Jones leads the Civic Chorus in rehearsal, which takes place every Monday evening at Slauson Middle School.

“I love it – It’s ideal for me,” said Jones, an Ypsilanti Public Schools music teacher who also has served as a choir director at several area churches and teaches private voice, piano and guitar lessons. “It gives people in the community a chance to come together who enjoy singing. My goal is to help the singers improve their singing ñ their tonal production. I want them to work well together, to sing well together.”

She called the group “the most committed, proactive group of singers I’ve ever been with.”

Jones has gotten comfortable with the job quickly, said Linda Brzezinski, community service supervisor for Community Education and Recreation, who coordinates the program.”She’s willing to work with just about anybody.”

Ruth Kenny founded the group and directed it for seven years. Rebecca Vlisides then took over, directing the group for 19 years before stepping down last spring. “We owe a lot to Rebecca, but Linda has put her own special stamp on it,” Padgitt added.

Singers range in age and Brzezinski said anyone 18 and older with some previous choral background can become part of the chorus.

Another longtime member is Mary Beth Seiler, director of Greek Life for the University of Michigan, who has been with the group since 1990. “It’s a fun group,” she said. The enjoyment “becomes the people after such a long time. But it’s the music too. I call it my therapy. ”

Civic Chorus members practice a variety of songs as they prepare for a spring concert. Both annual concerts by the group are free.
Civic Chorus members practice a variety of songs as they prepare for a spring concert. Both annual concerts by the group are free.

At a recent Monday rehearsal, two new members joined. Soprano Liz Houts had not had a singing outlet since she graduated from college five years ago. She tried singing with the University Musical Society, but said the group was too large for her liking. She thinks the Civic Chorus will provide what she’s looking for. “I have high hopes,” she said.

The chorus performs two free concerts for the community each year: One in December and the other in the spring. The next concert is scheduled for Sunday, April 25 at 3 p.m. at Forsythe Middle School.

“I think the whole point of community education is to create an opportunity for the community to enrich themselves in some way,” Brzezinski added. “This is the perfect example of that. We’ve been able to give the chorus a long, ongoing life.”

Casey Hans edits this newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. E-mail her or call 734-994-5090 ext. 51228.

‘Glee’ brings attention to community singers

From AAPSNews Service

The Ann Arbor Civic Chorus has received national attention this singing season, thanks to the Fox musical comedy “Glee,” which depicts one man’s efforts to save a high school glee club. Its story line and sound track have gathered a loyal group of followers.
The show has also jump-started interest in chorus groups and has prompted, at least some, to tune up their vocal chords. Following a fall/winter hiatus, the Fox show is scheduled to return to the air on April 12.

Cynthia D’Amour, a leadership strategist with People Power Unlimited in Ann Arbor, was inspired to join the group after watching “Glee” and blogged about her experience She was subseuently interviewed by Time Magazine (The ‘Glee’ Factor: A Rise in Amateur Singing Groups 12/9/2009) and the information also was picked up by USA Today.

Although D’Amour’s travel schedule has prohibited her from participating this winter, she enjoyed participating last fall. “Singing with Civic Chorus was like a mental massage for me,” she said.

D’Amour said she enjoyed Linda Jones, the group’s new director. “She’s got a fun sense of humor and I learned more from her in a few weeks than I had learned about my voice in along time,” she said. “I do a lot of Webinars as part of my work. Applying what I learned from Linda helped to warm up my voice and increase the musicality as I spoke. My clients noticed – which surprised me and was a neat side benefit.

” ‘Glee’ motivated me to get back in a singing group and my time with the Civic Chorus helped me remember how much I love to sing,” she added. “I’m now working on bringing more music back into my life – which makes everything more fun!”

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