Chorus celebrates national parks in concerts

Posted 3/28/17

The grandeur of nature and the national parks are celebrated in song when the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County presents its spring program in two concerts this …

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Chorus celebrates national parks in concerts

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The grandeur of nature and the national parks are celebrated in song when the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County presents its spring program in two concerts this weekend.

“If you didn’t make it to a national park this year, you owe it to yourself to come to this concert,” said chorus member Cris Wilson, who also serves on the organization’s board of directors.

The National Park Service marked a milestone last August when it celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding. “It’s important to remember and cherish pivotal events and those who came before us – the forward-thinking people who believed in something, fought for something, or achieved something for the future of our country and for the planet,” chorus director Leslie Lewis said.

Lewis selected songs to fit the theme, both literally and symbolically. “The very idea of a national park system is that these treasures belong to all of us, so ‘This Land Is Your Land’ was a no-brainer,” she said.

“The beauty of our natural wonders just called out for an arrangement of ‘America, the Beautiful,’ and I was able to find a wonderful new arrangement that is thrilling to sing and to hear.”

Lewis also found a song specific to Yellowstone Park, and one to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, a national monument, in “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” set to Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus.”

“As a city girl on the East Coast, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty stood as my experience of our national parks,” said singer and board member Lee Ann Chearneyi. “Because my grandmother came to this country from Sicily at 5 years old through Ellis Island in 1912, I see it not only as a gateway to being an American, but as a gateway to America – glacier and mountain, ocean and orchard, canyon and prairie.”

Music about the parks and the wonders of the natural world form the essence of one half of the program. Lewis has paired songs of hope and inspiration with the park theme to highlight the second portion of the program.

“The ‘hope and inspiration’ half needed to include songs that choral singers love to sing,” Lewis noted. “It features pieces that are by turns lovely, jubilant or express a text of determination, such as the lyrics of ‘We Rise Again.’

“Why do we keep doing what we do as choral singers? We love the music; we love the sense of community; we love the power of combining our voices together to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” she said.

Lewis has a few treats in store for audiences, including spoken word – applicable quotes about the national parks and nature by John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt and Ansel Adams – and a slide show of iconic images of parks.

Lewis credits pianist Lisa Lanza, who regularly accompanies the chorus in the spring programs, for helping to pull the concerts together. Instrumentalists with guest roles include Kim Clarke, trumpet, and Al Thompson, clarinet. Lewis is also appreciative of the contributions of bonus rehearsal leader Jonathan Stafford, pianist Diane Thompson and others who help with extra rehearsals.

“Linda Atkins, our board president, is a jewel, as is the entire chorus board,” Lewis said. “They volunteer hundreds of hours to the chorus.”

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