Delaware Choral Society serves up ‘Musical Feast’

Members of The Delaware Choral Society rehearse for Saturday’s food-themed “A Musical Feast” program. It is set for 4 p.m. at Dover High School. (Submitted photo/Ariane Mueller)

DOVER — The Delaware Choral Society’s “Musical Feast” – a food-themed musical program – takes center stage at Dover High School on Saturday.

“It seemed like a fun theme and I asked for food-related pieces from my friends on Facebook and got about 50 suggestions,” said Dr. James Wilson, director of the group.

The group performs two large shows every year — one near the year’s end featuring classical pieces and a spring show, which typically features more modern, popular music. This show in particular includes famous songs like “Be Our Guest” and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”

Nearly 60 adult singers join for rehearsal weekly leading up to the shows, and for nearly all the singers, music has been a lifelong passion, which for many began in church.

“I began singing in the church choir and have always loved it,” said Ann Baker Horsey, a soprano from Dover. “I live nearby and heard about the group and I’ve been a member since 1976.”

She joined two decades after the group’s founding in 1957.

Delaware Choral Society director Dr. James Wilson gets in the spirit of things.

Ms. Baker Horsey said the Choral Society presents her with challenges she doesn’t always get with the church choir.

“There’s such a different sound with so many voices and that’s why it actually started — a few church choirs came together because a lot of the classics just can’t be performed with a small choir,” she said. “I love singing the classics and I’m able to take on those challenging pieces with everyone in this group and we work to bring the best pieces to the community.”

Barbara Roscoe of Dover joined the choral society with her husband about 25 years ago and her children and grandchildren have come to every performance. Now, three generations of her family are in the group.

“I was raised in a musical home and so were my children. Music has just always been a part of life for us and now we get to all do it together,” she said.

Ms. Roscoe’s daughter-in-law, Sherry, is also involved in the group as an accompanist.

While singing has been a passionate hobby for many of the Choral Society’s members, for some, it has been a professional endeavor as well.

Members of The Delaware Choral Society rehearse for Saturday’s food-themed “A Musical Feast” program. It is set for 4 p.m. at Dover High School. (Submitted photo/Ariane Mueller)

“I sang professionally and have loved it all my life,” said Carol Denenberg of Lewes. “I love singing classical music and we do a lot of that here, but I will sing just about anything.”

The Delaware Choral Society is a non-auditioning group, so singers of all abilities are welcome, but must be dedicated to work hard.

“Dr. Wilson is a great conductor and very well trained. He understands how the voice works and that’s so important,” Ms. Denenberg said. “Everyone may come in here on a different level but Dr. Wilson holds everyone to high standards and everyone learns and grows and does their best because they want to. There’s no reason for anyone to keep coming week after week and keep improving except themselves. Everyone is just very dedicated and you can hear that.”

Aside from the two large concerts each year, the Choral Society has an outreach group that rehearses every Sunday and performs at local venues from parties to assisted living facilities.

Heather Swartzentruber directs the Delaware Youth Chorale, which will be accompanying the Delaware Choral Society Saturday.

“There are about 20 of us involved in outreach,” said the group’s organizer James E. Byrne. “Music has always been such a big part of my life, I like to stay as involved as possible.”

Mr. Byrne grew up singing opera and went on to be a high school choral director. After moving to Delaware in 2008, he soon joined the Choral Society.

While the Choral Society performs approximately 50 percent classics, Outreach performs exclusively popular music from the early 1900s through the 1970s.

Featured alongside the Delaware Choral Society in “A Musical Feast” will be the Delaware Youth Chorale, a group of around 20 children between third and eighth grades.

Sophie Vien joins fellow members of the Delaware Youth Chorale. A group of around 20 children between third and eighth grades form the chorale.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids to see this group of diverse singers and realize that music is something you can keep as a part of your life no matter what,” said Heather Swartzentruber, director of the Youth Chorale.

Ms. Swartzentruber is also the music teacher for kindergarten through fifth grade and band and choral director from grades five through eight at Holy Cross Elementary School in Dover.

Tickets for the 4 p.m. show are $10 to $25 and available at delawarechoralsociety.org or at the door.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer from Dover.

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