Singers welcome at new Columbia chorus

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Anne Ball

Encore Chorale, a choral group for adults 55 and over, is looking for new members in the Columbia area. Here, the chorales from Asbury Methodist, Schweinhaut Senior Center and the Washington Conservatory of Music at Glen Echo join forces for a public concert.
Courtesy of Encore Creativity for Older Adults

Encore Chorale, the Maryland-based nationwide choral program for men and women 55 and older, is opening a new chorale in the Columbia area. Rehearsals begin Aug. 31 and culminate with a concert of combined local chorales at Silver Spring’s Cultural Arts Center in December. 

“I am absolutely thrilled to be bringing our nationally recognized program to the older adult singers of the Columbia area,” said Jeanne Kelly, Encore Chorale’s founder and director. “The community of Columbia values excellent and accessible music, and Encore Chorale is looking forward to offering challenging and exciting four-part choral music to older singers.”

The Columbia Encore Chorale will be based at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia, with rehearsals scheduled on Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to noon starting Monday, Aug. 31 through mid-December. A second semester will begin in January.

The first semester features a variety of seasonal holiday music. The second semester focuses on more contemporary selections.

Each semester is approximately 15 weeks long, and concludes with one or more performance opportunities. Area Chorales may also combine for community concerts or special occasions at venues such as the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and the Renwick Gallery.

No audition required

Kelly outlined the basics of all Encore chorales: There are no auditions, and singers may sit both to rehearse and perform. A musical background is not required. One needs only to love to sing, Kelly said. And for some, she added, this may be the first time they have sung with a group.

The joy of singing with others was Kelly’s primary interest when she founded Encore Creativity eight years ago, after 30 years of professional performing, teaching, conducting and arts management in Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Her resume includes faculty positions at the Baltimore School for the Arts, Hood College in Frederick, the U.S Naval Academy, and the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C. She has conducted the Georgetown University Concert Choir and the Naval Academy Woman’s Glee Club.

Two early signers-on for the Columbia Chorale, Lane Jennings and his wife Cheryl, both 70, of Owen Brown Village, have not sung with Encore before, but have attended performances.

“It was so energizing to see all those seniors up there on stage, smiling and really enjoying themselves,” Cheryl recalled. “I sang in my high school chorus in Pittsburgh, and I’ve always loved theater. But I haven’t really done anything since the mid-‘60s when I sang with the American Light Opera Company in D.C.”

For his part, Lane sang with his high school glee club in Chicago and did some Gilbert and Sullivan later, but has mostly focused on his career (he currently is editor of the World Future Review published by the World Future Society in Washington, D.C.)

Cheryl works at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda as a Heart, Lung and Blood Institute contract administrator. Both have enough flexibility in their work schedules to allow for the chorale’s weekly 90-minute rehearsals.

Adding your voice

Currently there are 17 Encore Chorales in the Washington/Baltimore area serving over 700 singers. There are also affiliate chorales around the country, in Salt Lake City, Sarasota, Fla., Reading, Pa. and Hudson, Ohio, among others.

Tuition for the 15 weeks of instruction, sheet music and concert performances is $150. Advance registration is encouraged and may be processed through the Encore website: Some need-based tuition assistance is available.

A preview of the upcoming semester includes musical selections such as a “Jingle Bells/Hallelujah Chorus” combination arranged by Jonathan Miller; the spiritual “Rise Up Shepherds and Follow”; “Ose Shalom,” a prayer for peace in Hebrew by John Leavitt, and Craig Courtney’s variations on “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” ranging from the Gregorian chant through historic musical styles all the way to the present.

Stephen Harouff, director of the Towson Encore Chorale and music director and organist at Towson Presbyterian Church, will direct the Columbia Chorale. An experienced choral director and musician, he holds an undergraduate degree in music education from West Virginia University and a masters degree in music from the Peabody Conservatory.

Although Harouff is himself considerably shy of the singers’ starting age requirement of 55, he has worked with Encore for several years and admires the zest and vitality the singers exude.

“I am just so happy to be doing this work,” Harouff said. “I value so much the goals and mission of Encore.”

During the summer months, Kelly and her Encore Creativity associates present five-day Institutes at Washington College in Chestertown. Md., and at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.

Encore also offers “Singing at Sea” voyages on cruise ships with performances by the Chorale singers during the trips.

Harouff said singers from other area communities are welcome to participate in Columbia’s chorale. He noted that one woman who lives along the Route 29 corridor in Montgomery County has switched her membership from the Encore Chorale in Silver Spring to Columbia — partly for the excitement of being involved in the formation of a new chorale and partly for “an easier commute.”

Those interested in joining the chorale may call the main Encore office at (301) 261-5747 or visit the website to register prior to the first rehearsal Aug. 31. The website also offers information about the group’s cruises and other chorales throughout the area and around the country.