Members of the Elizabethton Choral Club say those who have heard any of the group’s performances know this local music group gives nothing short of top-notch performances. Four people — Pam Smith, Hilda Collins, Terry Rice and Jerry Harper — are charged with keeping the different musical sections of the Choral Club in perfect harmony.
Smith serves as the section leader for the club’s sopranos, while Collins is in charge of the altos. Rice supervises the tenor section and Jerry Harper is in charge of the bass section. They are all under the direction of the club’s long-time director, Debbie Gouge.
Smith said that the first sopranos for this year’s performances are Natalie Aldridge, Sarah Baker, Marilynn Barker, Charity Bell, Kathryn Brickey, Janie Broyles, Shirley Curde, Bobbi Elliott, Pat Hinkle, Sara Beth Kerr, Diane Laws, Katherine Pierce, Ashton Slagle, Pam Smith, Sue Tinker, Gerrye Vance, Kathy Wilson, Joann Wright and Vivian Yonkey. The second sopranos are Ruth Bowers, Gail Bradley, Jeanie Holsclaw, B.A. Job and Carol Yonkey.
Smith, who first joined the Choral Club in the fall of 2000, said that she is the point of contact for general information, date and times for the soprano section.
“I keep track of the absentees in my section and report them weekly to the board,” Smith said.
Collins said the club’s altos are Sandi Blanton, Dana Bowman, Janeen Bradley, Mary Lou Elliott, Sandy Greer, Floy Grindstaff, Sherry McCoury, Beverly McKeehan, Jane Murden, Debbie Siebenaler, Leanna Slone, Mary Smith, Natalie Smith, Danny Taylor, Jan Tillman, Donna Whittemore and Tonya Kay Woods.
“I serve on the board, representing the altos,” Collins said. “I am the contact person for the altos when they cannot attend a rehearsal or if there is an issue of some kind.”
Collins joined Choral Club because she loves music and wanted an opportunity to sing. She has belonged to the group for the past five years.
Rice said the tenors are Scott Reynolds, Gene Estep, Jerry Freeman, Todd Smith and Charlie Slagle.
Bill Fancher is also a tenor member and past president, but he cannot sing this semester while teaching music elsewhere. Doug Harris is also a regular member, but not every semester.
Rice keeps up with attendance in the tenor section and contacts his fellow tenors about reasons for any absences.
“I have to go to bat for them during any board meetings to determine eligibility for participating in upcoming concerts as part of our by-laws,” Rice said, adding that the board sets the percentages of practices expected to be met to qualify to sing in concert.
“I also am expected to obviously attend any board meeting where any issue needs to be addressed or resolved, such as proper attire,” he said.
He also helps with funding hardship cases of members who are unable to afford attire — tuxedo and dresses — required for the concerts.
He also offers input on scheduling events and votes on pertinent issues.
Rice joined the group in 2005 and proceeded to sing for eight consecutive years, or 16 semesters.
He has had almost perfect attendance.
“I could not sing in one concert for health reasons — I had just had open-heart surgery,” he said.
Harper identified the members of the bass section as Jon Cardwell, Robert Clark, Dean Grindstaff, Jerry Harper, Bob Hendrix, Dick Hendrix, Fritz Job, Jonathan Raulston, John H. Smith, Don Woods and E. Ed Yonkey.
As bass section leader, Harper keeps up with attendance and serves on the executive board.
Harper said he joined the Choral Club in 1966 when Milton Lubbs invited him to become part of the group.
“Mrs. Woodruff was our director,” he said. “I have been a member most of the years between then and now, except when I worked out of town.”
They all came to the Choral Club for their own reasons.
“I wanted to be musically challenged and be a part of something this is musically fulfilling,” Smith said.
Her participation in the group has met that goal.
“I get a sense of accomplishment and self-fulfillment in learning and performing new music,” Smith said.
“Also, this group is like a family. We encourage one another and are concerned with what is happening in each other’s lives.”
For Rice, joining the group came as a result of some not-so-subtle invitations.
“It was strongly suggested to me by fellow church members where I was attending at the time who felt I could sing a little to come experience a few practices with the Choral Club to see if it would be something I could be interested in doing,” Rice said.
He encourages other people who love signing to consider joining the group.
“I’d tell them it is a combination of devotion to, and desire for, doing something for your fellow man in the sense of contributing an uplifting, passionate, patriotic, emotional and always Christianlike musical experience to your community, and your circle-of-influence, for at least one brief moment in time each season, in hopes that a life could be touched, and God’s blessings spread abundantly,” Rice said.
They all serve as enthusiastic ambassadors to spread the word about the Choral Club’s amazing performances.
“I love the Christmas concerts,” Collins said.
“We have wonderful soloists — I always enjoy their performances,” she added. “At one concert, several years ago, Dana Bowman sang ‘Deep River.’ That was one of the most beautiful performances I have ever heard — anywhere! Dana sings from her heart and it shows in her performances.”
Harper said he likes the fact that the Choral Club sings songs from different eras.
“The club is a good way to learn how to be a better singer,” Harper said. “Lots of the people around you sing much better than you and it helps you to improve.”
He added that he has sung in church most of his life.
“I enjoy singing,” Harper said.
It was a passion he shared with his wife, Peggy, who was also a member of the Choral Club before her death on Oct. 30, 2012.
“She loved singing,” Harper said. “She sang in the alto section until her health would not let her participate.”
He extends an invitation to the public to attend this year’s Christmas concert.
“It is an evening of relaxing and enjoyable music,” Harper said.
They are also involved in other music endeavors.
Rice and his wife, Debbie, reside in Elizabethton and attend Borderview Christian Church, where he is a soloist and choir member.
Rice said the Choral Club members prepare extensively for each concert.
Rice said members contribute three-and-a-half to four months of weekly practices in preparation for a “moment in time” concert that lasts between 90 minutes and two hours in the hopes and expectations that people will walk away afterwards feeling good about what they witnessed.
Smith plays the piano and is currently in the church choir at Roan Street Church of God in Elizabethton.
“I was the children’s choir director for a few years,” she said. “I have always been involved in a church music program.”
Collins is the organist/choir accompanist at Fairhaven United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
“I am co-owner/instructor of Blue Owl School of Music, a Musikgarten program for young children,” she added.
Collins also offers private instruction in piano, harp and mountain dulcimer.
The Elizabethton Choral Club will perform its annual Christmas Concert Monday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Baptist Church in Elizabethton. It’s a free concert, and everyone is invited to attend and get into the Christmas spirit.
The club will begin spring season rehearsals at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, at Grace Baptist Church.
For more information about the club, email Scott Reynolds at email@example.com.