(Reprinted from Highlands Ranch Herald)
The Highlands Ranch Community Association is calling all soprano, alto, tenor and bass vocalists 55 and “better” to join the Highlands Ranch Encore Chorale.
The non-audition choir will kick off Sept. 4 for a 15-week session and end with a free holiday concert, open to the public, on Dec. 6. Those interested in joining will pay a fee for each 15 week session, which includes weekly group voice lessons, learning music and tools to help improve breath control and voice range, chorale director Brian Letherman said. The fee for charter members will be $95.
Lessons for a maximum of 75 members will be held at Southridge Recreation Center, 4800 McArthur Ranch Road, every Friday from 10:30 a.m. to noon in preparation for the holiday concert, where members will sing holiday favorites and popular music from the 1950s and 1960s.
The chorale is a national affiliate of Encore Creativity for Older Adults, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing an accessible artistic environment for older adults who seek arts education and performance opportunities under the direction of professional artists, according to a press release. Encore Creativity is based in Maryland and has more than 750 singers throughout the United States.
Under the artistic direction of Leatherman and executive director and accompanist Cindy Runkel, the bar is set high, HRCA spokeswoman Jamie Noebel said.
“It's a pretty neat program. We're really, really lucky to get directors of this caliber. This isn't just a regional, little choir that gets together to sing — these directors are really good and bring out the best in everybody,” Noebel said. “As you get older, you go through your cycle of work and get to a point where something you really enjoyed early in your life disappears. We want this to be something where people are able to jump back into a passion they once had. I think they'll (singers) be in heaven if they join.”
Leatherman said that a couple of summers ago, he and Runkel were working with Denver's largest choir group, the Cherry Creek Chorale, and after taking over for a former professor to direct the program for seniors, he had a “ball” doing it.
“I said to Cindy when I retire June of 2014 from my teaching career, we ought to start a daytime choir for senior citizens,” Leatherman said. “She (Cindy) did a lot of research and came across a group in D.C. and read a research paper about the efficacy of singing for older people. The social, physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of singing for the community were astounding.”
After teaching music for 30 years, Leatherman retired and he and Runkel brought the idea of a chorale to the HRCA and Noebel was thrilled, he said.
The long-term goal is to eventually have a number of similar choirs throughout the Denver metropolitan area. Now that the Highlands Ranch plan is in place for the south metro area, other good locations like Lakewood, Aurora and somewhere in central Denver would be lovely, Leatherman said.
Leatherman said he'd also like to have another Highlands Ranch 15-week session start sometime in January.
“Our main goal is to put on a really professionally prepared concert. I've been conducting community choirs for 26 years, I know what I'm doing and I'm a singer myself. We would love to have a choir of 75 with five-eighths women and three-eighths men. But, we will work with what we get. We want to help these singers use their voices easily and well and watch them have a good time doing it,” Leatherman said.
Speaking of a good time, charter members will have the opportunity to learn singing styles from genres like big band, folk and Broadway. The group will predominantly work on songs for the Christmas program, as Leathermen has already gathered arrangements like “Hallelujah,” “Do You Hear What I Hear” and the Hanukkah piece “Everlasting Light.”
Runkel, who is the marketing and development manager of the Cherry Creek Chorale and performs professionally with piano and her voice, said she thinks of music performing groups as team sports.
“What musical group that you know of has people sitting on the bench? We all get to participate. It's a feeling of accomplishment, especially for older people who might not have much going on in their lives. For this chorale, we're going to have a very positive atmosphere. I love seeing that look on their faces when singing, just as much as I love performing myself,” she said.
Runkel said she wants to make sure everyone knows that to be a part of the Highlands Ranch Encore Chorale does not mean you have to be a resident of the community. The chorale welcomes anyone from the area, she said.
If interested in joining, an open house meeting with a video presentation and mini-rehearsal will be held at Southridge at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 13. (See photos of the open house below.)
PHOTOS OF AUGUST 13TH OPEN HOUSE: