The Chamber Singers are part of a 5-day residency program joining with other choirs from across Maine to form the Maine Festival Chorus. The trip culminates in a concert at Carnegie Hall on Sunday, April 17th.
Windham Chamber Singers Director Dr. Richard Nickerson said he was invited to conduct this program a few years ago. The high fees involved means coordinating with other choirs to make it happen. He approached Rob Westerburg, the choral director at York High School, and together they created the program.
Since the group would already be in New York City, Nickerson sent an audition tape to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to participate in their guest choir concert series. Their concert was approved, and on Friday, April 15th, the Chamber Singers will perform a full hour of sacred acapella music.
This tour is different than most years, Nickerson said. “Typically we would go into different communities. We’d be somewhere different every night. This year, we’re going to New York City, we’re being dropped off and we’re staying in midtown Manhattan the whole time.”
Staying in a city like Manhattan is extremely expensive, and more fundraising has been required this year than most. “This year, for the first time, we’ve actually reached out asking for help,” said Nickerson. “The response has been overwhelming. That may not be the case if we did that every year,” he said, adding that next year the tour will not require any fundraising beyond the usual concerts.
“I think we live in a community that’s very supportive and the chamber singers have a really good reputation. When we go out into the community and ask for help, I think a lot of people are very willing to give us help,” said chamber singers president Jacqueline Gleason-Boure.
One of the fundraising events is the Windham Chamber Singers Music with a Mission concert, which will be held this Saturday, March 26th at the North Windham Union Church. This concert will preview their NYC tour, including several serious pieces from their St. Patrick’s concert. The evening will also include a silent auction and raffle to raise funds.
“It’s not typical for us, but I think it’s really going to be an exciting night,” Nickerson said. “This concert offers the perfect chance to perform for our community as a kick-off before the tour.”
The minimum fundraising target for this tour was $10,000 and Nickerson said they are within $1,000 of hitting that goal. Going above their target means even more great experiences for the students, such as attending a show while in the city. Seeing a show won’t depend on the extra spending money a student may or may not have. “We’ve approached this as an all or nothing thing,” Nickerson said. “If we go see a show, the entire choir is going to go.”
Gleason-Boure said that is one of the reasons she feels fortunate to be a part of the group. “Dr. Nick has an amazing way of really making us feel like we’re an ensemble. It’s not as though if we have more money we’ll be able to do more, but if we work hard enough we’ll be able to do more. It feels really great to know that we really value each other,” she said.
Preparing for the tour has taught the students a good lesson in hard work, Gleason-Boure added. Secretary Jaydie Allen agreed. “Every day we come in and we work really hard to find fundraisers and get sponsorships. It’s really rewarding to keep looking at the board and watch the thermometer get closer and closer to the top. We have a picture in our mind that we’re working for it. That’s the rewarding aspect.”
While the hard work for this tour isn’t quite done yet, the choir is also already looking forward to next Fall, planning a concert in conjunction with local musician Sean Slaughter and an 11-piece band to do an entire night of Queen.
Tickets for the MWAM concert will be sold at the door, and are $12 for adults and $10 for students, children and seniors. Tickets are also available in advance on-line at www.mwamconcerts.com . The box office opens at 6 p.m.