For the past 35 years, the Danville Area Choral Arts Society has provided the local area with high quality musical presentations, as well as opportunities for area residents to participate in a worthy mission – to promote music and singing in southern Virginia.
“The Danville Area Choral Arts Society is a choral arts group that began 35 years ago. He is inspired not only by Danville, but by the surrounding areas – Gretna, Chatham, Collinsville. Really, anyone in the area is welcome to sing with us. We make all types of music,” said general manager Carolyn Smith in a recent interview with the Star-Tribune. “Because it’s the only choral arts society (in the area), not only do we do classical stuff, but we’ve done Broadway and ’40s music. We even made bluegrass themes, movie themes. We just had a variety of gigs over the years.
After two years of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Danville Area Choral Arts Society is celebrating 35 years of local choral music with a concert on Saturday, May 14 at 5 p.m. at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, located at 3090 N. Main Street in Danville. Admission is free and no ticket is required.
“Before COVID, we usually played at least two major concerts,” Smith said. “It stopped us for a while, like everyone else. But we usually give two big concerts a year. We also play with the Danville Symphony Orchestra, usually for a holiday concert and a 4th of July concert.
The all-volunteer Choral Arts Society is led by Dr. Christopher Swanson, who has been with the organization for a few years. Swanson replaced Robert Sutter, the longtime director of the Choral Arts Society, who now accompanies Swanson on various projects such as the upcoming May 14 concert at St. Luke’s Methodist Church.
“We are very lucky to have him,” Smith said of Dr. Swanson. “He is a voice and chorus director at Longwood College, who makes that long two-hour drive each way to come to our rehearsals. He is fantastic. We are very lucky to have him. Our longtime choir director, Robert Sutter, now accompanies him. Dr. Swanson stepped in to an emergency a few years ago, a few weeks before a gig, and it was so fantastic. Everyone loves him. We were very, very lucky with that. He is also director of the Summer Garden Opera Company, which performs in Richmond. He is obviously very talented.
The Danville Choral Arts Society is sponsored by the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region, the Kiwanis Club of Danville, and the American National Bank, with support from the greater Danville community.
“We’re generally supported across the community, which is amazing,” Smith said.
Although the Choral Arts Society has stood the test of time from a membership perspective for three and a half decades, the past two years have brought enormous challenges to the organization in terms of maintaining engagement and sustaining its membership base. members. The upcoming concert is seen in many ways as a golden opportunity to help replenish attendance numbers.
“We usually have around 40 members. It’s always kind of, you lose a few and you get some back. But it has been a particularly difficult time because of COVID,” Smith explained. “Some people just didn’t feel comfortable getting back into singing, or once people got out of the habit of doing something like that, it’s hard to get them back. So it’s a kind of a rebuilding year, but we’ve put together a strong group and we’re glad we survived.
The May 14 concert, instead of being tied to a specific genre or theme, will celebrate 35 years of the organization by featuring an eclectic range of music across many spectrums throughout the long history of the band.
“As it’s our 35th year, we went back to music that our singers had loved and that we could sing,” Smith said. “It’s not a particular genre. A variety of music was chosen from previous concerts.
In addition to the chosen songs, the Society will sing a special Ukrainian prayer which was recently composed by the famous English composer John Rutter.
“Also, a piece that we haven’t done before is John Rutter – he’s a very popular composer for easy listening – we do a lot of his pieces,” Smith explained. “He recently wrote a Ukrainian prayer. So we do, and it’s very significant. So we sing that.
The approximately one-hour concert will feature the following musical selections:
• Over time
• Give me the simple life
• Laughing Son
• The joy of the soldiers
•For the beauty of the Earth (John Rutter)
• With heart and hands (John Rutter)
• I will sing with the Spirit (John Rutter)
• A Ukrainian prayer (John Rutter)
• Didn’t you know?/You’ll have a song (Randall Thompson)
• In Creation (arranged by Carolyn Hamlin)
• Praise to the Lord (arranged by F. Melius Christiansen)
The Choral Arts Society is excited for the opportunity to reintroduce choral performance to Southern Virginia after missing the past two years due to the pandemic. They can’t wait for local choral music fans to come see them perform May 14 at St. Luke’s Methodist.
“This concert is just to bring the band together and rebuild it, to encourage people to come back to listen to choral music, and in doing so, just to choose songs that we have already performed over the past 35 years and that we think will will appreciate,” Smith said. “Choir music has been silenced for nearly two years due to COVID restrictions. This will be the first concert welcoming all of our members back.