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OV Chorale Christmas concert Sunday

Ohio Valley Chorale members are shown during a recent rehearsal for Sunday’s Christmas concert. -- Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — The Ohio Valley Chorale will present its 2019 Christmas concert beginning at 3 p.m. on Sunday at First Westminster Presbyterian Church, located at 235 N. Fourth St., Steubenville.

This marks the sixth concert and completion of the third full season for the chorale, which was co-founded in January 2017 by Amanda J. Abrams, Erik R. Waugh and Robb Townsend.

The concerts remain free and open to the public with a free-will offering taken at the performance. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The program will feature the singers of the Ohio Valley Chorale, which we expect to be more than 70 in number, from all over the Tri-State Area,” Abrams said. The accompanist on piano, organ and harpsichord will be Michael A. Busija of the Pittsburgh area. The concert also will feature accompaniment by a 12-piece paid professional chamber orchestra, with Waugh as conductor.

Vocal soloists are West Liberty University voice students Glory Dami, soprano; Madeleine LaFollette, soprano; and Patricia Loy, alto. Ohio Valley Chorale member Caroline McLaughlin, soprano, also will be a soloist.

The chamber orchestra for the Christmas concert is comprised of musicians of the Wheeling Symphony, students of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra members, including students of Carnegie Mellon University, and musicians with ties to West Liberty University and the local area. Orchestra members will be traveling from all over Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to perform.

The program will consist of the following pieces to be performed by the chorale and full orchestra: Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” arranged by Dan Forrest; “How Still He Rests” by Brent Pierce; “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen; “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “Carol of the Bells;” and some additional traditional Christmas hymns that will include audience participation.

Waugh also arranged a version of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” for the chorale that will be performed for the first time.

“The concert also will be featuring a greatly anticipated solo of ‘O, Holy Night’ from chorale member Mitchell Spurlock, tenor, during the offertory,” Abrams said. “Mitchell is the son of co-founder and director of the former Civic Choral Society, Stephen B. Spurlock, and co-founder, the late and very beloved Martha ‘Marti’ Spurlock, who passed in September of 2018. Civic Choral was an amazing ministry of sacred choral music that blessed our community for 42 years. The Ohio Valley Chorale remains very grateful to the Spurlock family for their help and support in starting and continuing the chorale, building upon the tradition of the Civic Choral Society.”

Sunday’s program is “graciously sponsored in part by Apollo Pro-Cleaning and Restoration and Anthony Mougianis and many other generous donors from our community, including Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D’Anniballe and Tri-State Printing,” Abrams noted. “Tri-State Printing and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pflug deserve a special mention as they have supported the chorale very generously since its inception and provide truly beautiful programs for our audiences for each concert. The chorale wishes to thank the community from the bottom of our hearts, as every needed cost that has arisen for each concert over the past three years has been fully covered by donations,” she added.

“We remain absolutely overwhelmed and humbled at the donations and warm embrace that we have received from the community,” she continued. “We had no idea what to expect when we first met to start the chorale, but the first night we opened the doors for rehearsal in January of 2017, we had enough sheet music for 40 singers, hoping that we would be lucky enough to draw that many singers who would be interested for that first concert. That night, we had more than 50 singers appear by nearly 20 minutes before rehearsal started and had to ask members to share music with one another until we ordered and received another shipment for the following week’s rehearsal,” Abrams said. “We contracted a full orchestra for that first concert, truly hoping and praying that the funds would come in, and not only did they come in, but by the end of the spring 2017 concert, we had enough funds to get started on our Christmas concert expenses.”

In just under three years, the Ohio Valley Chorale has welcomed more than 140 different singers as members who have performed in at least one, but as many as all six of concerts. “All costs have remained covered completely by countless, very generous individual and local business donors,” she said. “A large portion of donations come from our own members as well, and it is very impressive that not only are they invested with their time of attending rehearsals each week and practicing at home, but are also invested financially into the support of the group,” she said.

The co-founders have often discussed that if there were any question that the area supports a community choir and wanted this back for our area, that question was more than answered.

“When we opened the doors and entered the sanctuary to begin the first concert in April of 2017 to a packed house, we truly knew that was what our community wanted,” Abrams said. “That feeling just continues to grow as we continue to open the mailbox and receive donations throughout the year as well as when we look out in the pews of the lovely First Westminster Presbyterian Church to a packed house,” she added.

“We remain so very grateful to use First Westminster as the home of the chorale for rehearsals and performances. We truly wish to extend a tremendous thank you to the congregation, Pastor Jason Elliott and the staff of First Westminster Presbyterian Church for welcoming us with such open arms to their gorgeous facility these past three years,” Abrams said.

Donations may be made payable to Ohio Valley Chorale and mailed to 631 Canton Road, Wintersville, OH 43953.

Though the Christmas concert has yet to be performed, the chorale already is in the process of planning its spring 2020 concert, which will feature pieces from the sacred choral repertoire.

“The chorale remains open to anyone to join, with a note that an ability to read music is strongly encouraged,” Abrams said. “The only cost to join remains the cost to purchase music for the member, which will be approximately $25 for spring 2020.”

Rehearsals will resume on Jan. 20 and continue each Monday until the concert, which will be held on a date to be determined in April or early May. Details will be posted on the chorale’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ovchorale.

Amanda J. Abrams

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