Gary Humphrey owned a music store in 1994 when he decided to bring culture to Collinsville by forming a community singing group.
Twenty years later, the Collinsville Chorale still is going strong with about 75 members.
They volunteer for the audition-only group so they can be challenged by higher-caliber music than is performed by most church choirs.
"It has quasi-religious overtones," said Humphrey, 58, of Collinsville, who still serves as executive director.
"We perform secular and sacred music. We perform four major concerts a year (pops, spirituals, patriotic and Christmas), and they're generally held at churches in the Collinsville area."
The group will celebrate its anniversary at 7 p.m. Friday with a special concert in the Collinsville High School theater.
A $15 admission fee is being charged to help defray the costs of bringing guest soloist contemporary Christian singer Kathy Troccoli from New York. Usually, the chorale collects freewill offerings.
"In our 20-year history, this is only the second time we've charged admission," said Humphrey, now a sales representative for sports apparel.
The Collinsville Chorale is based out of St. John United Church of Christ. On a recent Monday evening, about 60 singers were packed in a rehearsal room with tiered seating, belting out "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Members range from teenagers to people in their 70s and 80s. One of the newest is alto Mandi Voegele, 33, of Collinsville, a community relations specialist.
"I was instantly impressed with the direction," she said. "It reminded me of my college chorale. It's fast-paced and focused with attention to detail, which I think is what produces quality music."
Voegele also likes the group's camaraderie, describing it as "almost like a family."
The artistic director and conductor is Andy Waggoner, 34, of Chesterfield, Mo., who also works as music director at Concord Trinity United Methodist Church.
He's finishing up his eighth year with the Collinsville Chorale.
"The community supports this chorale backward and forward with their attendance and their financial gifts," Waggoner said.
Friday night's concert will include pop, sacred and patriotic music, as well as "Jesus, They Boundless Love to Me," a piece commissioned for the group in March by Greg Gilpin. That was a highlight of the past 20 years. Others were festival performances at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2008 and 2011.
"It was exciting," said alto Pat Keefe, 57, of Troy, early childhood coordinator for Triad schools, who has performed with the group for 17 years. "How many people get to sing in Carnegie Hall?"
At a glance
What: 20th anniversary concert
Who: Collinsville Chorale
Where: Collinsville High School theater
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Tickets: From group members or at the door