Choral society striving to keep the music coming

ESCANABA – The Bay de Noc Choral Society has strong roots in the community — dating back to the 1940s. The group wants to keep that tradition going and is seeking new members.

The Choral Society started performing in the 1940s as the Orpheus Chorus. The chorus entertained into the early 1960s, and then disbanded.

The Great Lakes Choral Society began in early 1972. The society brought a rebirth of choral music to the Escanaba area — until its conductor left in 1975.

Ed Richards, then Gladstone’s high school director, founded what is now known as the Bay de Noc Choral Society. Ann Wood, music director, started with the choral society in 1982. Wood watched Richards, the founder, move away in 1989.

Wood is the current conductor. After two other conductors came and went, she has been the conductor since 1992, enjoying every performance the Choral Society performs.

“This is an opportunity for people who like to sing,” said Wood, “It’s a little more difficult than a church choir… a chance to work on more.”

Music runs in Wood’s family. Her first job was playing the piano for the church when she was 13 years old. Wood went to college at Missouri Synod Lutheran College-Concordia University of Wisconsin and received her master’s degree in church music, with a minor in bell instruction.

“It was an excellent place to go and experience,” said Wood.

Wood chooses the music for each performance and presents it to the Bay de Noc Choral Society board members for approval. The choral society has three elected directors — Kathy Young, Lin VanEffen and Sue Doran. The directors assign others to positions on the board; Harold Olson is the president, Terri Branstrom, vice president, Cynthia DeFiore , secretary, Patty Kobasic, treasurer, Mike Olson, publicity, and Mary Bastian is the group’s librarian.

The Bay de Noc Choral Society is for people who want to sing and challenge themselves a little more. Being able to read music is a plus, but not necessary. The group has two performances a year — a spring concert and a Christmas concert.

“Some members have a background in choral literature,” said Wood.

Membership numbers vary from semester to semester during the year. The Christmas concert usually includes 30 to 40 members each year.

Wood helps each member who is undecided if they are a bass, tenor, alto or soprano.

“If someone insists they are an alto, then they are an alto. A person could be unsure of what part to sing and I would take them aside and we would figure it out,” Wood noted.

“I may tell them, you’ll be happier singing this part.”

This time of year, Wood looks toward the Christmas season. She chooses music, recruits others to join the society and requests patron’s support.

John Ignatowski is the accompaniment this year. Around the last week of rehearsals, musicians playing brass, hand bells and strings will be included in the practice.

Christmas rehearsals start Tuesday, Sept. 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. and are held each Tuesday until Nov. 27. Rehearsals will be held at the Bethany Lutheran Church in Escanaba. Oct. 1 is the latest anyone may start.

The Bay de Noc Choral Society is always looking for patrons to support the society. Contact Kobasic at 906-789-1590 if you are interested in supporting the society. Acknowledgment of the support will be listed in the program.

To participate in the Bay de Noc Choral Society contact Mike at 906-241-7731, or Ann at 906-786-6910, or go to the Bethany Lutheran Church, 202 S. 11th St., Escanaba, on Sept. 11, at 7 p.m.