New Richmond Community Choir prepares for first concert
On Saturday, Jan. 25, New Richmond Community Choir Director Bill Leahy watched as members of his newly created community choir continued to pour into the New Richmond High School choir room for the group’s inaugural rehearsal.
Leahy had hoped to see around 25 people sitting in the chairs in front of him at that rehearsal, but the number of community members who filled the chairs was even more than he could have dreamed of.
“I was hoping for 25 singers or so, but we ended up having 43 show up at that first rehearsal,” Leahy said. “That is the first positive because it was sort of like ‘holy cow’ since it was exciting to have that many singers. I think people were kind of ready for a choir like this to take place in New Richmond.”
Over the last five Saturday mornings, the newly created New Richmond Community Choir has been rehearsing for an hour and a half each Saturday in preparation for its inaugural concert, which takes place on Monday, March 3, at 7 p.m. in the New Richmond High School auditorium.
For many years, Leahy has felt that New Richmond has been missing a community choir, but it wasn’t until this last year that he felt that it was finally the correct time to make a push for a new choir.
“Over the years, I would hear people say that we should have a community chorus, but the timing was just never right,” Leahy said. “Now the timing seemed right for the chorus to start and people seemed anxious.”
After seeing the choir in action for the first time, Leahy was able to see that the group he had assembled would make for a rather good choir given the nice balance of sound and voices that the various members brought to the group.
“We really have a lot of good singers. Oh my goodness, each section has some excellent talent,” Leahy said. “They are really dedicated, even for that short amount of time that we have been together.”
The 43 singers who make up the community choir make up a wide range of experience and training, including choir directors, music teachers, church choir members, private music teachers, pianists and people who just love to sing. According to Leahy, the choir has decent balance, but he can always use a few more men to join and even out the choir even more.
“I was hoping we would have some leadership in each section and I have that with this group,” Leahy said. “We’ve got a number of really trained singers in that group as well. It is really a nice group. We have some less experienced members, but as I look at the group, I think that nearly everybody has been in some kind of choir in some place at some point in time.”
One of the most challenging things Leahy ran into while getting ready for the community choir was not only finding music for a group that had yet to be formed, but finding music that would appeal to all the choir members regardless of their talent levels.
“I had to wonder about what music to pick because I didn’t want the music to be so hard that the inexperienced people drop out, but I also didn’t want it to be so easy that the folks with more experience and more skills are bored or wasting their time,” Leahy said. “I think we have done well with the music we picked out and I think we have a good selection of songs. Some of them are just singable and some of them you really have to work at.”
Another decision Leahy made when it came to the song selection process was trying to find music which was more secular than might normally be performed by a choir in order to appeal to everyone and not to overlap too much with those who already sing in church choirs.
“I looked for secular things and things that had a piano accompaniment because I wasn’t sure what the group was going to be made up of at that point,” Leahy said. “Then I tried to find three that were really quite challenging, three that were really quite easy and one that was in the middle and I kind of went there.”
The song selection for the concert has yet to be determined, but it will come from those seven songs that Leahy originally picked for the group to work on. The program will give a list of the songs, but the group will most likely not be singing all of them. Leahy hopes to get six songs ready to perform by the concert.
The Kammerchor choir from the high school under the direction of Andy Schroetter, will also sing three or four songs during the concert.
“We are not going to sing a song together, but if we do this again, that is maybe something we will aim for,” Leahy said. “It would be kind of neat to get to sing something together like that. And I thought for the first year that might be asking a lot of everyone to get that put together.”
A few of the challenges Leahy has run into with the community choir were the weather and trying to get the group ready for a concert that was just over a month away from its first rehearsal.
“The weather was definitely a challenge since it made it hard to get people to the rehearsals,” Leahy said. “Also, if I did it again, I think I would make the rehearsals longer because we are a little short on time. So one of the challenges is trying to learn a lot of music in a short amount of time. But that is really it. The biggest challenge, though, might have been getting it all ready and set for the choir to even become real.”
No matter how the concert turns out, Leahy feels that the community choir will be a success based on the fact that it accomplished the goal he had set for the group.
“The goal is to bring a bunch of folks together who like to sing and enjoy singing together,” Leahy said. “And I think we are reaching that. Aside from what the concert turns out to be. If it turns out great, fine. If it doesn’t that’s OK because as I’ve said, it is kind of the journey that’s just as important as the destination.”
Community Choir members talk about their experiences with the choir so far…
“I loved choir in high school and eventually I ended up in the choir at church. I was one of the people begging for this to happen for a long time. The choir is fast paced and really fun. [Leahy] keeps it upbeat and it is great. I’m just super excited about this and I’m hoping that a lot of people come out and see us perform.”
-- Stacey Ehlenfeldt
“I have always loved music and I’ve been singing since I was a little kid in the high school and college choirs. So far, the community choir has been a lot of fun and there are a lot of really good people in it. Bill [Leahy] has the capability of pulling the best out of us, he can pull wonderful out of us. I’m looking forward to standing up at the concert and making beautiful music.”
-- Nole Cook
@t:“I love to sing and, being the director at the First Lutheran Church, I have really liked getting the opportunity to sing without having to direct. I knew there were a ton of wonderful singing talents in town, so I knew this group would be a lot of fun to sing with. I think it has all gone wonderfully and I can’t say that I’ve heard a bunch of sour notes or anything. It has been very pleasant.”
-- Jeri Talmage
“I’m singing with the Immaculate Conception Church Choir, and when the word went out looking for people to join the community choi, I said ‘why not?’ The two things I have really liked about the choir is getting to be with other people in the community and do something that we all enjoy doing; and the fact that I love to sing. We are looking forward to the concert as a group and I think we sound pretty darn good together.”
-- John Harrington
“I think there has been a really neat vibe in the group. The group tells me that the time goes fast and that rehearsals are over too quickly, which is always a good sign. I see a lot of people shaking hands, giving hugs and talking with one another, so the community aspect of it is really positive. They want to do well and they want to fix things and they listen really well. So it has been a lot of fun and a really good dynamic for the group.”
-- Bill Leahy