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Chorus to sing praises of old and new(er)
Voices of North Georgia to perform this weekend
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The Voices of North Georgia kick off their 2007-08 season this weekend, and they’re singing praises.

Literally.

Formerly Gainesville Chorale, the group of accomplished singers is back with a new name and a program of spirituals for their fall concert.

The program includes classical favorites such as Vivaldi’s “Gloria in Excelsis,” and also features newer spirituals that will be familiar to many audience members. These include “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and a medley of “I’ll Fly Away.”

The range of music will bring audience members on a spiritual journey that crosses hundreds of years.

“The (‘Cantate Domino’ by Claudio) Monteverdi would be Renaissance, and then ‘Gloria’ would be Baroque, and then you would jump into the more modern traditional,” said Gayle Wilkerson, publicity chair for the Voices of North Georgia. “It does give it a nice variety, kind of something for everybody.”

And despite the age of some of the tunes, Wilkerson said they each have their own character and can be appreciated as easily today as they were hundreds of years ago. Vivaldi’s music, for example, is something everyone can get into, she said.

“It’s catchy and it’s fun to sing. It’s lively and it’s just kind of hard not to like it,” Wilkerson said, adding that the traditional spirituals are just as complex as the classical pieces.

“I fully think some of the spirituals are some of the most beautiful things we know,” she said. “I don’t know how they came about, but the melodic structures of those are truly gorgeous.”

Jeanne Luke, president of the group, will be singing a solo in the concert: “Qui Sedes ad Dexteram,” or “Lord have mercy on us.” She is excited about singing the piece because it was a selection she originally had on a demo CD she gave to potential agents while she lived in New York City.

Luke spent 10 years as a singer and voice instructor in New York before moving to Georgia. By performing with an orchestra, she said, it adds more feeling to the piece.

“The orchestra is very supportive of the voice, and especially in something as intimate as a prayer, the strings add a warmth and emotion to enhance what I’m trying to say,” Luke said. “ Just like an organ prelude can set the tone for a church service, I think the orchestra can set the tone for the piece — whether it’s sung by a soloist or an entire chorus.”

Next fall, the group will be celebrating its 40th season, and the name change is a prelude to great things to come, Luke said. Upcoming events could include a fund-raising dinner theater or a concert performed in a city other than Gainesville. “Part of that is to plan something fantastic,” she said.

The name change came about after Luke realized 43 percent of the chorus’ membership was from outside Gainesville. “I just really pushed it, and with the support of the board we had an internal contest and had a vote.” Luke said. “We changed the name so we can more accurately represent our membership and also widen our financial base outside the boundaries of Gainesville.”

But when it comes to this weekend’s concerts, Luke said the difficulty of the pieces and the addition of the orchestra elevate the program of spirituals to a higher level.

Wilkerson added that singing, for her, is a very spiritual event. The program of songs offering praise is a chance for her to feel the music and the specialness behind it all.

“We have a minister in our group and he says, ‘this is my therapy,’ and it’s true,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where we all come from. We come there (to sing) for a common cause — it takes you out of the common world and into another realm.”
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