We took a drive over to Southwestern Community College the other day and met with Dr. Terry Russell, a music instructor and the artistic director of the college choir.
Actually Dr. Russell is more than that. She and her group at the college represent the nearest thing that the local community comes to vocal culture. For more years than we can remember the college choir has entertained members of the college and the community at large with a wide selection of musical numbers with voices that we might say have been heard not only on the national stage but on the international stage as well.
In past years we have reported on the choir’s visits to such places as Carnegie Hall in New York and various visits to Europe where they have performed in storied Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris as well as other venues. This year the choir’s travel was a bit different. They were part of the massive group of musicians and other entertainers who settle in Athens, Greece for two weeks in July as members of the Ninth International Festival of the Aegean. During this short period of time those attending are treated to a variety of approaches to classical music probably not heard anywhere else on the continent.
The festival is under the direction of Peter Tiboris, a Greek American whose career spans 40 years, 30 of which have been spent in New York where he staged concerts at Carnegie Hall. He has a vast history as a conductor and as a teacher with an emphasis being placed on festivals, such as the one in Greece. This particular festival is as varied as classical music might get and plays at many venues in the area.
The Southwestern College choir was one of four from the United States. There were more than 50 members from this area who attended the festival, choir members who go back for many years. One of the assets of the local choir is this unity that they have with one another having been together for such a long time. In sports one might call it team play. But Dr. Russell tells me that it is the utter love of music and the gift and opportunity to sing it for the enjoyment of others. A long time friend of ours, Lisa Harter, for example who for years sang with the choir here made the trip although she currently lives in Virginia.
In addition to being part of the principal choir and performing with them at the Greek Festival the Southwestern group had a performance of their own. Titled a “One Hour Rush Concert” it was staged at the Apollo Theater on the first Wednesday of the festival. Their offerings included “Missa Azteca” an arrangement that they have sung locally in the past.
We have often praised the efforts of the Southwestern Choir and wished that there was greater community participation.
The use of Mayan Hall for the choir’s performances combined with the vast amount of musical talent should be enough to draw the theater throngs. In Dr. Russell the college has a musical instructor who is one of the best in the county. The programs are delightful and enjoyable and are top of the line, so to speak. On top of that they are inexpensive.
I have a list of programs that will carry over into the next year. The next one is one of the most lauded, the Annual Fall Pops Concert. This will occur on Sept. 15 at 4 p.m. at Mayan Hall. We will publish the times and dates of others as they come up.
Remember the word “community” is in the title of the college. That means the community is invited.