Wild Rose Chorale is ‘Happy Together’ singing weekend concerts

Lynn Nowak special to the Leader
Posted 6/7/23

By its very nature, a cappella choral singing relies upon the complex interweaving of individual voices to make a cohesive whole. The point is that the singers create together what they can’t …

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Wild Rose Chorale is ‘Happy Together’ singing weekend concerts


By its very nature, a cappella choral singing relies upon the complex interweaving of individual voices to make a cohesive whole. The point is that the singers create together what they can’t achieve alone.

Members of the Wild Rose Chorale enjoy what they do, so they are presenting their upcoming spring concerts with an apropos theme, “Happy Together.” Performances are set for 7 p.m. Friday, June 9 and 7 p.m. Sunday, June 11, both at Grace Lutheran Church, 1120 Walker St., in Port Townsend.

Naturally, an arrangement of the 1967 hit single “Happy Together” by The Turtles is on the Wild Rose program, as well as other pop favorites, but also included are at least one jazzy number, a classic folk song, and a show tune or two. The group enjoys singing pieces from a variety of genres, especially if the arrangements are intricate, lush, or just plain fun.

The song lineup also offers an unusual arrangement of Paul Simon’s familiar “Sound of Silence”; the King’s Singers’ version of “Africa”; “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder; Jake Runestad’s lovely “Let My Love Be Heard” from 2014; and another 21st century tune, “Shut Up and Dance,” this one with an infectious beat.

Director Leslie Lewis said she can’t wait to share both old and new songs with audiences, adding that this season there seem to be more numbers with difficult rhythms, and also close harmonies with divided choral lines to utilize all voices in the now 11-member group.

“While those are challenging to nail down accurately, there is fun in the process as well as in the results. If we choral singers did not enjoy the whole process from rough start to polished ending, we would never have the patience for such an artistic endeavor,” Lewis emphasized.

Bass Doug Rodgers said it isn’t easy when everyone is just learning the music, “when you are just trying to read what’s on the page and have no idea what it is supposed to sound like.”

He credits Lewis with getting the group through that awkward stage toward real music-making.

“I love the theme, ‘Happy Together.’ I think it represents the way we feel when we sing as a group,” said Cherry Chenruk-Geelan, soprano.

Chenruk-Geelan joined in the fall and is singing her first spring program. She is pleased that members took time to select the music together and is looking forward to hearing it all in a purposeful program.

“Wild Rose has a special place in my heart,” said bass Al Thompson. “Twenty years of making music with this group has been one of the highlights of my life here in Port Townsend. We laugh; we sing; we enjoy making music together.”

A cappella singing is sometimes described as “singing without a net,” since it requires no instrumental accompaniment.

“It means we have the freedom to perform anywhere and not worry about whether the piano’s in tune,” joked bass Mark Schecter, who is a piano tuner.

Rolf Vegdahl, tenor, expanded on the notion: “I like a cappella singing because it feels like we are pulling music out of the air, without relying on instruments – creating something from nothing by simply opening our mouths with specific harmonic intention.”

Rodgers went a step further and relayed a favorite memory.

“Years ago, I walked into a sixth-grade class with an a cappella group and when we started to sing, the kids were just dumbstruck. I guess they had never seen people make music right there and with no special ‘stuff.’ Just people singing.”

Lewis said her long tenure with Wild Rose Chorale boils down to a couple of factors.

“For me, it’s the close intimacy of a small group and the beauty of unaccompanied voices that I love. That’s not to say that I don’t also love large choirs with piano or orchestral accompaniment,” she said. “It’s just a different animal.”

Lewis appreciates and promotes all choral singing.

Rodgers said that during the COVID years, he enjoyed making recordings and editing music videos as a way to stay connected to choral music, “but nothing beats singing together in person.”

Although not required, the Wild Rose Chorale encourages audiences to wear masks at the concerts. Admission is a suggested $20 at the door. The group has an active scholarship program for high school and college students of vocal music and appreciates donations to keep it alive.

For details on the ensemble, which began in 1992, visit wildrosechorale.org, email
wildrosechorale@gmail.com, call 360-643-3345, or check out the group on Facebook.