OH, THE SOUND OF MUSIC by Barbara Biddison
It has been a long time since Wellsboro Women's Chorus and Wellsboro Men's Chorus all sang together in our practice room. The "it brings tears to your eyes" and "joy to your heart" sound is back! The last two chorus practices have overlapped for about 15 or 20 minutes. We are joining voices for a few songs. I have been especially moved by "One
Voice," which, of course. begins with a solo baritone and moves on to the end where "Everyone will sing! We will sing." And by the time we get to the end , all the men and women in the room are singing. It is powerful. And then I look at the director Christina Simonis's face as she takes us all to the end of this song, and she is so "there," so moved by the sound of music in this simple practice room. It moves me deeply too every time.
The concert that we are preparing for will be at the high school on Saturday night, April 30th. The guys are celebrating 75 years of being the Wellsboro Men's Chorus. At the moment I can't call up the date of the Women's Chorus beginning, but I know that I have been singing with them since 1982. The "surround sound" is not new to me. The men, and women have joined voices at many an "after-glo" following a concert and in front of the Arcadia toward the end of a long Dickens Day where we always conclude together with "Let There Be Peace On Earth" and we link arms with each other and a street full of visitors.
There are so many stories here. Our long-time and faithful directors, and our very long-time accompanists, and the trips, and the uniforms, and the scholarships that we give to encourage the younger singers. And the April 30th concert will also feature other choruses and choirs of varying affiliations and ages.. At a joint rehearsal a couple weeks ago, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by the press. As I looked up from my music I would find Natalie Kennedy pointing her camera at one singer or another as she danced around the room on a mission to capture it all. The April 21 Wellsboro Gazette carries photos and stories galore. This is a celebration of our love of music.
[Note: The Hamilton-Gibson Youth Choir is singing at the celebration this Saturday; along with the WAHS Men's Choir and the Butler Middle School Boys, plus one or two out-of-town male choruses.]
"I LOVE THE THEATER.. EXCUSE ME, DEAR? I LOVE A GOOD PLAY." by Barbara Biddison
Yes, Winifred loves the theatre and she loves a good play. Lucky her, she's a character in the play INTO THE BREECHES! Her husband isn't quite on board yet, but before he knows it she's going to be talking about "rounding out the cast." So here's what happened with this play that Hamilton-Gibson is currently producing. After the first week the audiences were echoing Winifred and talking about loving a good play! I was there opening Friday night, and it was grand to be in that totally involved, often laughing, sometimes silent, always attentive, audience. The word spread, as words do in this community. They had to bring in another row of chairs for the Sunday matinee.
Now everybody wants to see this play! This Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9, were already scheduled, and we have added another matinee on the 10th! Lest you think that you have heard enough about war right now and wonder if World War ll, a play set in 1942, is what we need, I'll tell you what it does for me and many others who have seen this play. It shows me the resilience of those left at home. It gives me so much to laugh at without ever minimizing the challenges. It introduces me to characters that I love, the people left behind when the men go to fight the war. The first auditionee, the one who cheerfully rides her bicycle everywhere (saving gas for her husband's tank) keeps us loving her and laughing until.....until she has something to say. And Ida, the costume designer, sits quietly in her designated corner until she, too, has something to say. Well. it's a play, so we expect them all to have something to say, but you will listen carefully when these people talk. You will listen to them, for they have something to tell you.
I have watched this cast dig in and prepare themselves in every imaginable way. They researched appropriate clothing, and then they figured out how to change costume in about thirty seconds (more than once) during a performance. They researched 1940s hair styles for women and then made their own hair do that. They played roles that might be uncomfortable for their gender or the color of their skin. They learned a bit about sword fighting. They truly walk around in someone else's skin. And the audience can tell that, and that's why it's so funny and so moving and so engaging. It has been quite a journey to get here!