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Local choral groups have new directors

By Sarah Hall
shall@salisburypost.comSalisbury holds an unusually large number of choral organizations for a community of its size. Two groups that have the longest traditions are the Salisbury-Rowan Choral Society and the Concert Choir.
Both organizations are members of the Rowan Arts Council, both currently rehearse at St. John’s Lutheran Church and they even share some of the same members. In fact, sometimes people are unaware they are two separate, distinct groups, and some people get confused about which is which.
The Choral Society has been around longer. The earliest documented evidence of the group places it in 1910, although it may have existed even earlier. It had various names, including Oratorio Society, Salisbury Choral Club, Salisbury-Spencer Choral Society. In 1959, the name was officially changed to Salisbury-Rowan Choral Society.
Over the last few decades, the group has performed a variety of music beyond anthems and oratorios, including patriotic songs, show tunes and pop music.
Concert Choir was formed in 1976 as a community outgrowth of the music ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Karl Kinard, who was the church’s music director at that time, directed the group for two decades.
The group performs major choral works, and sacred and secular repertoire of the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and modern ages.
Both the Choral Society and Concert Choir are under new directorship this season.
Choral Society introduces Damien Evans to the Salisbury music community. He moved to the Landis/Kannapolis area recently from Dallas, Texas. In addition conducting the Choral Society, he directs the music ministry at Kerr Street United Methodist Church in Concord.
Evans received his education at the University of North Texas where he studied music education with a choral conducting concentration. He also had the opportunity to study vocal technique and conducting with Dr. Lloyd Pfautch at Southern Methodist University.
Before moving to North Carolina, Evans worked to salvage a music program in a struggling church. The program went from a small adult choir to one of the largest Methodist adult choirs in the area, a graded children’s music program, youth choir, praise band and orchestra. The chancel choir had the honor to perform for the Texas Choral Director’s Association convention and the children’s chorus was named “Most Outstanding Chorus” by Chorister’s Guild.
Evans is actively involved in the American Choral Director’s Association, National Association of Teachers of Singing, International Association of Jazz Educators and was the youngest person to ever serve as president on the Chorister’s Guild board.
The Salisbury-Rowan Choral Society’s 2008-09 season theme is “Let Music Live,” highlighting an awareness of the need to strengthen current music education programs and to help re-establish struggling programs for youth.
The Choral Society will be working with a children’s, middle school and high school chorus this year in recognition of this theme.
The first concert, “A Holiday Tapestry” will feature the Burlington Boys Choir and will be performed at St. John’s Lutheran Church at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30. The concert will present favorite holiday tunes as well as original works.
A March concert, “In Our Time” will present a concert of outstanding choral repertoire by recent composers and will feature a local middle school chorus. The annual Spring Pops concert at the Meroney Theatre on June 7, “Voice Dance,” will feature pop, Broadway, vocal jazz and folk music and will feature a local high school chorus.
The group is also gearing up for their big 100th anniversary celebration.
Choral Society president Micah Melton says “Damien is enthusiastic and has demonstrated tremendous talent in bringing out our group’s potential. He has a great ear and is always working to help us improve our blend as a group. Damien also has great planning skills and has planned our entire season quite thoroughly.”
Concert Choir’s director is new to the group but not to Salisbury. Dean Orbison is well-known as director of the outstanding choral program at East Rowan High School where he has taught for more than a dozen years.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Wingate University and post baccalaureate studies in music theory from Carlton College, Northfield, Minn., and in educational administration from UNC-Charlotte.
His honors include Time Warner Star Teacher 2001, 2002 and 2006, East Rowan Teacher of the Year 2002, Faith Jaycees Educator of the Year 2004, and Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year for Rowan County 2006.
Orbison’s choirs have performed at Carnegie Hall, National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Lake Performing Arts Center in Florida, Contemporary Arts Center of Virginia, and have received superior ratings for 10 years in grade 6 music at the N.C. Festival.
He also sings with the Southern gospel trio One Faith, which is recording its first CD, and he serves as minister of music for West Corinth Baptist Church in Mooresville. One wonders how he has time to take on Concert Choir this year.
“Time was a concern for me initially,” Orbison says, “but with my son now at Wingate, and me by myself, I felt it was something I was led to do, so I’ve made time for it. I’m excited to be able to direct literature I can’t do in a high school setting.”
The group has grown this year, and now has about 40 members. They have planned two concerts this season.
The first performance, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m., is a completely a capella concert “A Study of Styles.” The May 1 concert will be “A Study in Languages” with songs in French, Latin, Swahili, Russian, Hebrew and English.
Both Salisbury-Rowan Choral Society and Concert Choir will welcome new members in the spring.
For information about the Choral Society, contact SRCS Director@gmail.com, call 704-224-7148, or visit www.srchoral society.com.
Dean Orbison of Concert Choir may be reached at 704-433-8015 or deorbone@aol.com.

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