The Holy Heart of Mary Alumnae Choir will perform an anniversary concert June 13, celebrating 10 years of local, national and international performances.
The choir's first concert was in 1999, following an informal call - a notice in The Telegram - that asked graduates of Holy Heart of Mary High School to come together to sing at the school's 40th anniversary celebrations that year.
The group put together a half an hour or so of music to perform. The collective enjoyed the experience so much, according to choir director Valerie Long, they decided to keep singing together. Beginning with a followup meeting to the first concert, the group has been together ever since.
A member for the past three years, Joan Rumsey, said the alumnae choir now practises every Monday night for about two hours. She personally does not mind committing the time.
"It is one of the best decisions I ever made," Rumsey said. "I enjoy the camaraderie. We have 100 women and no matter how tired you are when you get there on Monday night, no matter how many troubles you may have, once you get there the energy that fills that room is just so uplifting that you go home feeling like you're walking on air."
She also enjoys performing. She said one of her favourite songs to perform, a spiritual song "Deep River," also tends to be a hit with audiences and will be a part of the anniversary show.
"We're kind of picking out crowd favourites and going with those. It's a mixture of Broadway tunes, Irish songs, church music, spirituals, a little bit of everything," she said.
The choir's repertoire has grown along with its membership. Starting with 30 members in 1999, the choir has since grown to 100 members. The cap was put on at 100, said the choir director. Otherwise, the group would have difficulty fitting in some venues. "We don't have auditions, we just have a waiting list of people who want to join the choir," Long said.
"We do regular performances and sing-a-longs at seniors homes where members of the choir have a parent who might be a resident of the home and so those are always meaningful for me. But we've also travelled extensively. We've been to Ireland and England and just a couple of years ago we went through Europe where we sang at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, where we were the featured entertainment that afternoon and that was quite memorable. We've been to the Czech Republic and in Dresden and Frankfurt, Germany. Those moments, singing in old cathedrals are something I'll never forget."
On the international stages, the choir members represent decades of graduating classes - from the 1960s to the 1990s. Long said the group mixes well, socially and vocally.
She would know. She has directed the choir since it's start and it remains her job to work with the voices.
Long is an experienced choral leader, also directing the choir Les Ms.
She also holds a handful of music and education degrees from Memorial University of Newfoundland (bachelor of music and music education) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (master's of music in choral music education, doctorate in philosophy in curriculum and instruction). She has acted as an adjudicator and clinician, working with performers in the Kiwanis and Rotary festivals. She has previously been named "Music Educator of the Year" by Music NL.
Now, she is set to become a recipient of the Holy Heart founder's award, presented to an accomplished former student who has contributed to their community's arts and culture.
Holy Heart of Mary Alumnae Choir member Rumsey said the choir supports the selection of their director for the award.
"She is an amazing lady. Music is her life and she is so talented and so involved in everything about music, she just brings out the best in us," she said.
"She sets very high standards, but at the same time she's very patient with us. And we just are so eager to please her that everything falls into place."
Long is scheduled to be presented with her award Thursday evening.
The anniversary concert for the Holy Heart of Mary Alumnae Choir begins June 13 at the Holy Heart Theatre at 7:30 p.m Tickets for the concert are $10 - one dollar for every year the choir has been together. They can be purchased at the Holy Heart box office and at the door.