Johnston County

Chorale to sing holiday songs

The Johnston County Chorale rehearses for its Saturday show with guest performers Mike Langdon on bass, Austin Pope on guitar and Dane Wells on fiddle. They are joined by chorale member Tim Broome singing and director Amy Rowe on piano.
The Johnston County Chorale rehearses for its Saturday show with guest performers Mike Langdon on bass, Austin Pope on guitar and Dane Wells on fiddle. They are joined by chorale member Tim Broome singing and director Amy Rowe on piano. tknopf@newsobserver.com

The Johnston County Chorale will present “A Christmas Celebration” Saturday, Dec. 19, in Clayton.

The community singing group has been performing since 1977, and today, its members range from 16 to 90 years of age. This year, the two-hour Christmas show will serve up a mix of secular and sacred holiday tunes that listeners will no doubt know.

The chorale will welcome a few guest performers too. The show will feature West Johnston High School’s dance team and vocal ensemble, Austin Pope and the Bluegrass Bandits and students from Steps on Stage Academy of Performing Arts.

Pope, 20, will sing and play guitar for the bluegrass portion of the show at the request of his grandmother, Cookie Pope, a chorale member and Johnston County commissioner.

Austin Pope is a junior at N.C. State University, where he is studying human biology. He sees music as a fun hobby and a way to earn a little money in school. He plays in bars and restaurants around Raleigh.

“Any time I get to play is a lot of fun,” Pope said.

On Saturdayday, he’ll be joined by the Bluegrass bandits, local musicians who came together to play with the chorale. The bandits are Mike Langdon on bass, Garrett Newton on banjo and Dane Wells on fiddle. They all hail from the McGee’s Crossroads community.

The bluegrass segment of the show will include such songs as “Christmas in Dixie” by Alabama and “Let It Be Christmas” by Alan Jackson.

Chorale director Amy Rowe said she puts together the holiday show by listening to a lot of Christmas music during the off-season.

“I select the song choices and put the program together, the flow of it and everything,” she said. “A lot of it is just kind of what I hear and really like.”

“They tend to follow along and like it as well,” Rowe said of chorale members. “I try to appeal to all age groups and different styles of pieces too.”

Rowe, who has directed the group for eight years, is a graduate of Meredith College with degrees in piano performance and music education. She teaches at West Johnston High School.

A unique aspect of the chorale is that it’s made up of about 50 members of all ages and backgrounds.

For instance, Genevieve Woodall is the oldest member of the group. She will celebrate her 90th birthday Monday. Woodall, a Smithfield native, attended Julliard, where she studied voice and conducting. She even stepped up and directed the chorale for a season in the early 1980s when it suddenly lost its director.

“It’s a great sport,” she said, laughing. “More should participate. It’s been a great experience.”

Tim Broome retired as Johnston County’s utilities director and found himself in need of something to do. So five years ago, after attending a chorale performance, he thought he would give it a try.

“It looked like they were having fun, and they sounded great,” Broome said. “So I decided to join and try one show. It was a lot of fun and sufficiently challenging to get the words and the notes. We do everything from memory for the concerts.”

“There are also good people, and I made good friends,” he said. “That’s the other half of it.”

Knopf: 919-829-8955

Want to go ?

When: 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19.

Where: at The Clayton Center, 111 E. Second St., Clayton.

How much: Tickets are $15 each.

Buy tickets online: http://theclaytoncenter.com/.

Or call the box office: 919-553-1737

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