Highland News Leader

Heartland Community Chorus tuning up for 7th season

Heartland Community Chorus holding auditions

Luanne Murphy, artistic director for Heartland Community Chorus based out of Highland, Illinois, discusses their upcoming auditions for the 2019-20 concert season set for Friday, Aug. 30, and Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.
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Luanne Murphy, artistic director for Heartland Community Chorus based out of Highland, Illinois, discusses their upcoming auditions for the 2019-20 concert season set for Friday, Aug. 30, and Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.

Heartland Community Chorus is readying for another season entertaining people in the metro-east.

The chorus will hold auditions for the 2019-20 concert season this weekend — from 6-8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the choir room at St. Paul Hall/Catholic Church, 1412 Ninth St., Highland. Anyone who cannot make those dates should contact Luanne Murphy, founding artistic director of the chorus, to arrange an appointment at 618-791-8408.

“When folks come to audition, they meet privately with Luanne,” said Jerry Bennett, administrator for the chorus. “After they provide some personal information about their past singing experiences, Luanne has them sing a piece — either an audition piece she provided or if they have not come with something of their own, she has them sing a short piece familiar to them.

“She’s checking their vocal ranges, and she talks to them about their level of musicianship.”

Bennett said candidates find out the same day if they made the cut.

“We have plenty of fish. Every member who signs for the chorus auditions every year. There will be approximately 40 people auditioning. We’re anticipating 4-5 new folks,” he said.

Overall, the chorus, beginning its seventh season, was started by Murphy — a retired music teacher — Sue Ellen Drewer, DJ Jones and Kay Ahaus.

According to their website, “Heartland Community Chorus is a performing ensemble for singers in the Southern Illinois area, based in Highland” and their mission “is to promote and preserve the tradition of choral music for the cultural enrichment of the Metro East Region.”

“We had the Highland Civic Chorus some years ago, but that disbanded. These four women were looking for an opportunity to sing on this side of the river,” Bennett said. “One of the things that I love about the chorus is, since Luanne is a natural teacher, we don’t just prepare musical pieces ... there’s also a large educational piece that goes with it.”

The chorus has approximately 40 members, and singers over 16 are welcome to join. Bennett, who has been with Heartland all seven years and himself sings, said the chorus has a wide range of experience.

“Some people have music degrees ... I have a music degree in voice,” Bennett said. “Some people have sung for many years in church choirs or other community choruses. But you don’t have to have a music degree to be in the chorus. Basically, Luanne is looking for a basic level of musicianship, the ability to read notes and follow that way.”

Heartland Community Chorus casts a wide net. While primarily from Highland, members also hail from Troy, St. Rose, Trenton, Greenville, St. Jacob, Columbia, Pocahontas, Edwardsville, and Pierron. In turn, the past two years, the chorus has started performing in other communities besides Highland.

Heartland performs three three major concerts per year: a Saturday-Sunday event at Christmas with a brass quintet; a spring concert in March that generally features serious, memorial type of music; and the Pops concert in late spring/early June.

For the Christmas concert, on Saturday, the chorus performs in a neighboring community; on Sunday, the concert is at St. Paul. The spring concert also is two days. The Pops concert, meanwhile, features American songbook pieces, jazz classics, some Broadway pieces, etc., and takes place at the Highland Elementary School auditorium.

Rehearsals take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Mondays excluding holidays at St. Paul. Of note, for students sixth grade and under, concert admission is free.

Community outreach important to Heartland

Additionally, community outreach is part of Heartland’s mission. In turn, the chorus performs smaller concerts throughout the year at various community locations and organizations when they’re invited. Another aspect of their outreach is welcoming one or two high school students recommended by their music teachers to sing with them for a season.

“They’re always a great addition to the group,” Bennett said. “They are enthusiastic participants, and our folks are very welcoming to them and happy to have them in the chorus. It’s a great experience for the kids.”

Another outreach initiative takes place in May with local nursing homes.

“It’s our outreach day, and we go to area nursing homes and put on little concerts at three or four nursing homes for the day,” Bennett said.

All in all, Bennett loves being a part of the choir and is excited about season seven.

“I’ve been signing in choruses for 40-plus years, and this is the friendliest one I’ve been a part of,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful, warm community of people. Our director is always engaging and always good humored. Not all choir directors are like that.”

For more information about the chorus, visit http://heartlandcommunitychorus.org or visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/heartlandcommunitychorus/.