East Lincoln chorus returns to ‘Messiah’
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Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013

East Lincoln chorus returns to ‘Messiah’

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/28/19/34/1kTXX0.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF PAM GAY
    The East Lincoln Community Chorus, shown last year, will perform part of Handel’s “Messiah” at its concert this month.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/28/19/34/1vfLca.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - PAM GAY
    The East Lincoln Community Chorus, shown performing last year, will present a holiday concert on Dec. 12-14.
  • Want to go? “The Messiah ... plus” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13 and 2 p.m. Dec. 14 at Denver United Methodist Church, N.C. 16, near the Denver fire station.

To commemorate its 10th anniversary, the East Lincoln Community Chorus decided to return to their roots this year.

The Christmas “The Messiah... plus” concert, scheduled for Dec. 12, 13 and 14, will feature popular Christmas carols in the first half of the performance, to be followed by part of Handel’s “Messiah,” last performed when the choir began in 2003.

“Every year when we begin planning for our next concert, we are looking for new and varied ways to bring the experience of live music to our community,” says publicity director Pam Gay. “In keeping with our slogan, ‘Bringing musical arts to our neighborhood,’ we have featured everything from steel drums to trash can players to dancers.”

“On the other hand, because of the majestic nature of the material, this will be pure music, a more traditional concert,” said chorus president Gaile Broom. “The program will be ‘family friendly’ but with more grandeur than other programs we have presented.”

“We are expecting an even larger crowd this year because ‘The Messiah’ is such an emotional piece for many people. It truly resonates with our audience,” says Gay, “but we suggest you arrive early to get a seat.”

The “plus” element in the concert consists of an ensemble of four musicians from the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra who will accompany pianist Jeff Perks, and oboe and trumpet player Josh Belvin, band director at Lincolnton High School.

The choir, consisting of 60 men and women ranging from college students to grandparents in their 80s, is directed by by Dustin Stamey, 33. A native of Lincoln County, Stamey is assistant principal at Catawba Springs Elementary School.

He had been director of band at East Lincoln High School from 2003 to 2011 and has been music director at Unity Presbyterian Church in Denver since 2006.

Stamey has performed “Messiah” twice before – once with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra and a second time at the School of Music at Western Carolina University. “Directing ‘The Messiah’ is an opportunity I have looked forward to, and I am honored to have been asked to do this,” he said.

“I’m hoping that new listeners, those not familiar with ‘The Messiah,’ will gain an appreciation for the music, as well as for the commitment and passion of the performers,” he adds. “It will be an emotional, personal and aesthetic experience for the audience.”

Rehearsals for each of the two annual concerts continue twice a week for three months, yet most of the members of the choir continue to participate for many years. “We have a core group of about 90 percent, with 10 percent of newcomers each year,” said Broom.

Donnie Maggart, operations and logistics chairman, has performed in every chorus program since it began. “I’ve sung all my life, and rehearsing or performing is one of the highlights of my life,” says Maggart. “I have to juggle being the parent of two young children, as well as my job in Charlotte, but I’ll always find time to be in the chorus.”

Maggart points out that non-singers are welcome to contribute to the cause of putting on the concerts. “We welcome folks who would like to help with audio-visual, costumes, choreography or acting,” he says.

Long-time choir member Joe Lampron, 59, sang in the first “Messiah” performance in 2003. “I’ve also been singing in the Unity Church choir for more than 20 years,” he says. “I’m pretty busy as chief financial officer in the corporate office of Peoples Bank in Newton, but I make time for singing because I enjoy it so much.”

“My dad and mother sang, and I guess I got the family’s musical gene,” says Lampron. “Singing with the choir brings me a feeling of accomplishment, and I love the audience response.”

Denver resident Jean Durham, 62, has also been singing in the choir since it began. “I am one of the few members of the choir who have sung in every performance for 10 years,” she says. “I’ve been singing in church choirs since I was 5, and I’ve been a member of the Denver United Methodist Church choir for the past 15 years.”

“Music has always been a large part of my life,” she adds. “My mother, although she couldn’t sing herself, loved music, and she instilled that love of music in me.”

Although the annual budget for ELCC is $10,000, admission to the concert is free. “We don’t want any member of the community not to come to our concert because they can’t afford to buy a ticket,” says Gay, “but donations are always welcome.” Because it is a 501(c)3 organization, it qualifies for matching funds from business and corporate donors.

Bruce Dunbridge is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bruce? Email him at brucedunbridge@yahoo.com.

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