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May 19 concert

Columbus Chamber Singers mark 25 years

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The members of the Columbus Chamber Singers are stretched, but never stressed.

That's the assessment of Clintonville resident Rosalind Horn, one of four remaining founding members of the all-volunteer mixed chorus currently in rehearsals for a concert to mark its 25th anniversary.

The performance, supported in part by a grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Ascension Lutheran Church, 1479 Morse Road.

"The location was chosen as a tribute to the church, which has provided the choir's rehearsal space for all of its 25 years," said Linda Meyer, another Columbus Chamber Singers member from Clintonville who is in charge of publicity for the anniversary event.

The concert is free, although a goodwill offering will be taken.

Diane Slagle of London, Ohio, is the choir's accompanist.

The grant will pay for a chamber orchestra to be on hand for one of the songs to be performed May 19.

Groups singing chamber music may not come and go with the frequency of garage bands, but two and a half decades shows this one has some staying power.

"I think one of the big draws to this group is that we sing a variety of music," Horn said last week. "We do a wide variety of music and we do not overextend ourselves.

"We only give two, maybe three concerts a year," she said. "We always give our music for free. We take our music to nursing homes and retirement centers. We every year perform at the Ronald McDonald House. We're giving to the community this joyous singing and we get to experience it ourselves without being too stressed."

Meyer had a simpler explanation for the choir's longevity: "Friendship," she said in an interview.

Anne Hurst Todt, who teaches voice at Capital University's Conservatory of Music, has been director of the Columbus Chamber Singers for the past 23 years.

"My chamber singers have always really wanted to be challenged and I just enjoy the group and the music we can do," Todt said. "I can challenge myself. It's a fun group of people."

For the anniversary concert, a steering committee was formed for planning purposes and to decide on content, she said. Members of the group often suggested their favorites from over the years.

"I had to be careful not to include all of them or we'd be there all day and all night," Todt said.

The Columbus Chamber Singers arose in 1988 from the ashes of what was the Columbus Chorale, a city-funded choir that folded when municipal money was no longer available to pay for a director and accompanist.

"That was the end," Horn recalled. "But by then, we had gotten to know some of the people, so we called about eight to 10 of them together, my husband and I, several of them also from Clintonville, but others from all around the area.

"We got a bunch of us sitting around our living room and decided we could start another group to sing for the love of singing, which is why we did it in the first place."

Horn and her husband, David, along with Meyer and her sister, Vicki Gierhart, are the four people still with the Columbus Chamber Singers from that living room get-together.

"We're not a big group," Todt said. "We don't want to be a big group. We've always stayed around 30 singers. We could maybe grow a little bit, but it's just kind of an intimate group."

"Classical chamber music is classical; that doesn't change so much, but we do a lot of other things," Meyer said. "We do popular music. We've dabbled in jazz, spirituals -- pretty much if you name one (genre), we've done it at some point. We once did in a concert Estonian."

That came about because a member of the Columbus Symphony who was of Estonian extraction asked them to do a concert in the language of his family's origin, Meyer said. For the concert, they sang some Estonian folk songs and even the country's national anthem.

"We thought it would be a very small audience, but lo and behold, several cars of Estonians came down from Cleveland," Meyer said.

The singers were worried about their accents, but they were pleased when several people in the audience had tears in their ears, she added. After the performance of the Estonian national anthem, one of them came up and said, "I never thought I'd hear that again."

"I hope we continue for another 25 years," Todt said.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

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