What: Columbia Chorale 30th Anniversary Reunion Concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Saddlerock Presbyterian Church, 1400 S. Miller St., Wenatchee
Cost: $15 adults, $8 students
- For every concert, Columbia Chorale typically meets for eight 2-hour rehearsals.
- The Wenatchee Valley Symphony has performed with Columbia Chorale 17 times over the last 30 years.
- Friday will be the 82nd performance conducted by Mike Hibbett, the most of any past director.
- About 32 members of Columbia Chorale sang at their first performance Nov. 10, 1983.
- Columbia Chorale held their first Christmas concert three years later in 1986. It is now their most well-attended show.
- About 98 percent of the choir’s past members sang under one of the four directors conducting at Friday’s concert.
The voices of 75 men and women rose with Mike Hibbett’s arms — “Glory, glory Hallelujah … his truth is marching on!” — and stopped suddenly with a swoosh.
“There’s an accelerando in here,” the conductor called out at Columbia Chorale’s rehearsal Monday. “But keep your sound healthy. We have plenty of voices and volume.”
The tremendous sound was made even stronger recently by more than a dozen retired members who returned for the Columbia Chorale’s 30th Anniversary Reunion Concert.
A combined choir of past and present singers will perform three grand finale numbers Friday, each led by past conductors — Dick Lapo (1983-1988), Brad Miller (1984-1997) and Hibbett (1999 to present). Dan Jackson (1989-1990) will also conduct a song with the current choir. Past accompanists will return as well, including Teri Rappé and Tami Lopushinsky.
The program features 18 of the choir’s favorite works — narrowed down from more than 500 songs they’ve sung in the past three decades. The chorus voted for one or two songs from each of the 10 categories in their repertoire.
“I think in its inception, it was focused on more classical music,” said historian and accompanist Ron Lodge. Through the years, they also sang jazz, Broadway, pop and folk. “We push the envelope, and my personal opinion is I love it … We’ll always go back to Brahms and Schubert. I think we still feel that’s our core.”
Choir members tracked down more than 430 alumni through the phone book, Facebook, Google and local contacts. Up to 25 past members are expected to sing Friday, with more watching from the audience.
“I have all the programs from day one, and I went through them all and wrote down the names of everyone who ever sung,” Lodge said. “So we had names, but we had to translate that into addresses.”
“That’s been a challenge,” Hibbett said with a chuckle. “We probably came up with addresses for over 200.”
The reunion has been going on for a few weeks at rehearsal as past singers come back to relearn the songs. As bass singer Gary Heckman prepared to leave for the night, an old chorus buddy, Dave DeJong, laid a hand on his shoulder in friendly farewell. Heckman said he misses singing with the group.
“I just like to sing, and I don’t sing solo,” Heckman said. “Coming back, it’s like a high school or college reunion, you see lots of people you hung out with. It’s fun.”
Bass Aaron Davis scribbled down a few notes in his sheet music as his father Kirby, now in his 80s, sat with the tenor section a few rows away.
“It’s a good outlet for vocal singing,” said Davis, who also performs in the symphony. “We have a community orchestra for symphonic instruments, and I see this as the vocal equivalent to that.”
The Columbia Chorale established itself as Wenatchee’s only mixed community choir in 1983. Before then, the group met informally for a few decades as an ancillary choir to the Wenatchee Valley College choir program led by George Bower and later, Dick Lapo.
“Dick felt strongly about having a community chorus,” Lodge said. “I think it was the idea of collecting all those people every time you wanted to do something. Why not just have a permanent community choir, with an established membership list?”
The number of singers stayed steady at 50 to 65, which Lodge attributes to the quality and continuity of its conductors. Hibbett was hired in 1999 and has had the longest tenure as conductor.
“How fortunate are we to live in a community this size to find a guy who has a doctorate in choral conducting?” Lodge said. “We have had have amazing conductors for 30 years. Not all communities have that.”
Ten members from the choir’s first season as Columbia Chorale still sing with the group. Soprano Faye DeJong still remembers practicing in Wilfred and Kathy Woods’ living room before the group changed its name and moved rehearsals to the museum. They now practice in WVC’s new Music and Art building.
“It’s something you do every Monday night; it’s part of our lives,” said alto Penny Tobiska, also an original member. “You get used to these people you’ve sung with for years. We have so much in common, the songs we’ve sung over the years and experiences we’ve shared together.”
Her favorite memories are the moments when the entire choir falls into synch with one another in a way “I can’t describe and I can’t get in other ways. Those experiences are the most emotionally thrilling,” she said.
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139