GREENFIELD — Sunday marks the first performance of the year for the Greenfield Community Choir, but this year is extra special.
This coming January marks the choir’s 50th anniversary, and members have been busy planning out a string of performances for the commemorative season.
The choir is kicking off the milestone with a new director, Bill Bell, who is excited to be leading such a seasoned group of musicians.
Loretta Canter of Greenfield and Helen Jackson of Mohawk are the sole original members of the group, but there are many other long-timers.
“Many others have been with us 35 to 45 years,” said Canter, 73, who owns Ella June’s boutique in downtown Greenfield.
The choir kicks off the season this Sunday, Oct. 23 with a free concert at Greenfield Christian Church starting at 6 p.m. The show, “Music of the Screen,” features music from television and film from the 1950s to today.
“There’s music from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ ‘West Side Side Story,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ the list goes on,” said Bell, who is looking forward to his first performance with the choir.
He was tapped to lead the community choir around May, at the end of last year’s performance season.
The Kentucky native earned a bachelor’s in music from Murray State University, and has been singing, playing or conducting music ever since.
“I love music. It speaks to our souls in a way that nothing else can,” said Bell, 40, who works as an information analyst for Elevance Help, formerly known as Anthem, Inc.
“I think music is the language of emotion,” he said. “In some ways we can almost live emphatically through what we hear, which I think is fascinating. The way it draws together is one of the most amazing things music can do.”
The Greenfield man has worked with various church choirs over the years, and spent a year conducting the Hancock County Children’s Choir two years ago. “There’s something very special about music performed at a community level, performed by the community, for the community,” said Bell, who is happy to be leading the Greenfield Community Choir.
“They are a really great group to work with. It’s a group of people who love to sing,” he said.
The choir has members of all ages from all corners of Hancock County, and is open to new members. Bell’s two oldest children, both teenagers, are part of the group this year.
The choir has been working on a full lineup of performances in the coming months, including a Christmas concert Dec. 11 and a spring concert March 5, with a dinner and dessert-style concert tentatively set for April 29.
The choir also performs at community events throughout the year, as it did at the Riley Festival earlier this month, and will sing at the tree lighting in downtown Greenfield in December.
Now that the choir is moving on past the COVID restrictions that brought performances to a halt, Canter is hoping the choir can return to doing dinner theater at Greenfield’s Trinity Park Church, a mainstay that was upended by COVID two years ago.
Canter remembers walking into her first choir call-out at the age of 23, when the choir’s director, Charlie Wright, and Greenfield’s high school choir teacher, Judy Bunch, were running auditions.
“I saw an ad for auditions in the newspaper and thought I’d give it a try. I didn’t want to go by myself so I invited Helen, but I didn’t even know if she could sing or not,” Canter recalled.
Turns out she could, and the two friends have been happily singing together ever since.
While the choir has mostly performed concerts in and around Hancock County, Jackson counts a trip to Europe and Carnegie Hall in New York City among her favorite experiences.
In 1991 the choir traveled to the northern European country of Estonia for a worldwide Bridges of Song event, where they sang a requiem by famed composer John Williams, among other numbers.
In January 2004 the choir performed John Rutter’s “Gloria” at the famed Carnegie Hall, alongside a multitude of choirs from around the country.
“We performed as one giant group. The acoustics were wonderful. It was very melodic,” recalled Jackson, 74.
No matter where they perform, Jackson has loved the experience she’s shared with fellow choir members over the past five decades.
“That makes me sound so old,” she joked, “but it’s been a great experience. It really has. It’s been great meeting new people who love to sing and perform at different places together.”
Choir members performed just once last year, when they sang Rutter’s “Gloria” at Faith Lutheran Church in Greenfield last spring.
“The acoustics are great there,” Canter said.
The choir reconnected with a pitch-in dinner at a member’s house in late September as they planned for the upcoming season and resumed weekly Tuesday night rehearsals in early October.
Canter said the choir is always seeking out new members, especially men, whose deep voices give the choir better range.
“I know with a town this size with so many new people moving in, there’s got to be people who like to sing,” Canter said.
For more information on the choir, visit the Greenfield Community Choir’s Facebook page or the choir’s website at GreenfieldCommunityChoir.com.
The Greenfield Community Choir is kicking off its 50th anniversary season this Sunday, Oct. 23 with a free concert at Greenfield Christian Church starting at 6 p.m.
The show, “Music of the Screen,” features music from television and film from the 1950s to today.
This coming January marks the choir’s 50th anniversary for the choir, whose members have been busy planning out a string of performances for the commemorative year.
Loretta Canter of Greenfield and Helen Jackson of Mohawk have been members since the choir’s inception in 1973, while many other members have been part of the choir for decades.
A new director, Bill Bell of Greenfield, will be leading the choir this year.
This season’s concert lineup includes:
Christmas Concert — 4 p.m. Dec. 11 at Bradley Methodist, Greenfield
Spring Concert (A Time to Weep, A Time to Mourn) — 4 p.m. March 5 at Grace Lutheran Church, Greenfield
Dinner/Dessert Theater Concert — tentatively planned for April 29
For more information, visit the Greenfield Community Choir’s Facebook page or the choir’s website at GreenfieldCommunityChoir.com.