The Heidelberg University-Community Chorus is in final rehearsals for its spring concert at 7 p.m. May 1 at St. Joseph Church in Tiffin. The program title, "A Grand Night for Singing," is taken from one of the selections to be performed. The chorus was assigned a new director for 2011-2012, Paul Mayhew, who is finishing his first year on the Heidelberg faculty. Having the concert at St. Joseph is a change from previous years, when it took place at Trinity United Church of Christ.
"We'll always think of Trinity as our home base. We have a unique relationship there," Mayhew said.
Trinity's pastor, Louis H. Dorsch, sings in the chorus, and Trinity's organist, Joan McConnell, is the accompanist for the chorus. Mayhew said he hopes to gain more exposure for the chorus by moving the concert to other churches. Heidelberg's Concert Choir often performs at St. Joseph, including its upcoming home concert at 3 p.m. Sunday. Mayhew said he is anxious to hear his singers in the acoustics at St. Joseph.
The chorus includes 72 singers, four of whom are charter members - Anne Baumgartner, Joan Groce, Robert Overholt and Sister Maureen Studer. About 30 are college-age, while the remainder are community members. A few are in their 80s. Although many sing in their own church choirs, participation in the chorus gives them a connection to Heidelberg University.
"Many of those community members are Heidelberg grads, and they are very proud to be still associated," Mayhew said. "I love doing community chorus. I love intergenerational choruses."
Meet the director
A native of Oregon, Mayhew has been an educator for 25 years. He started his career with 17 years teaching and directing musical theater productions in the public schools of Tucson, Ariz., where he also was assistant director for the community chorus. Next, he spent two years at Northern Arizona University to obtain a master's degree. Mayhew taught on the NAU faculty for another two years and conducted the community chorus there.
For about four years, he taught high school music again in his hometown and cared for his aging parents, who now are deceased. After that, Mayhew completed a doctorate at Florida State University 2007-2010 and served one year as assistant director for Tallahassee Community Chorus. Last year, he had a one-year position at Northwest Missouri State University to cover a sabbatical for a faculty member.
When Mayhew was hired as assistant professor of music education at Heidelberg, he was excited to be director of the university-community chorus in Tiffin. Because few groups encompass a range of ages from students through senior citizens, he is anxious to preserve that mix.
"There aren't nearly as many community groups of any kind (now) as there were 20 or 30 years ago," Mayhew said. "There are civic groups, and they're generally older, and there are student groups and fraternities. But I can't think of very many intergenerational community groups. So I put an emphasis on that."
Promoting a sense of community within the chorus was one of Mayhew's goals. In the fall, he made a name tag for every singer and placed it on the chairs to indicate the seating assignments. On successive weeks, he intentionally changed the arrangement.
"I mixed up their seating every Tuesday night. So there was never a time where the students came and sat together and the older folks sat together and looked at each other like foreigners," Mayhew said.
Each week, the director also encouraged people to walk around and introduce themselves to people they had not met before. As a result, they have learned names and formed some bonds with other singers. The older community members love knowing students' names and hearing about their families. Mayhew said three undergraduates are Facebook friends with Peg Baker, a retired teacher.
"They love her and Peg loves them, and that's a great example that gives (students) a sense of connection to the Tiffin community," Mayhew said. "This is truly an intergenerational community, so ... I think that sense of community is important."
Another chorus member, Carol Campbell, said she is pleased with the music Mayhew has chosen for the chorus, in addition to the friendly atmosphere he established.
On the program
The first half of the program for May 1 represents the four historic eras of music: Renaissance, baroque, classical and Romantic.
The pieces to be performed in the first half include "Come ye Sons of Art" by Henry Purcell (1659-1695); "Exsultate Justi in Domini" by Lodovico Grossi da Viadana (15601627); "The May Night" by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897); and Laetatus Sum Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806). Violinists Elizabeth Grace and Jonathan Vestal, and trumpeters Michael Lee and Stormy Rankin, are to join the chorus on two selections. Mayhew said he is trying to expose students to large choral music from all periods.
"I really enjoy singing all the pieces from the concert because there is such a great variety of music from different periods. My favorites are 'Exsultate Justi' by Viadana and 'Children Will Listen' by Stephen Sondheim. I like the Sondheim because of the message in the text. Anyone who is a parent or grandparent can relate to it. I get a bit emotional every time we sing that one," Campbell said.
During the intermission between the two segments of the program, Heart and Soul, a barbershop quartet, is to entertain the audience. Ken Krieger, director of Heidelberg's Water Quality Lab, is the tenor of the quartet, with Lou Engler (lead), Tom Evans (baritone) and Ted Williams (bass).
The break gives chorus members time to rest and regroup. The chorus' second half is to include lighter selections, mostly from musicals, such as "State Fair," "Into the Woods," and "Music Man." They also are to perform "Earthsong" by Frank Tichelli, a living, contemporary composer.
"The concert starts with a renaissance motet and finishes with '76 Trombones,'" Mayhew said.
Sunday, chorus members who could attend sang "Irish Blessing" as a tribute at Nancy Getz' celebration of life. Mayhew said he was sad to see the season drawing to a close.
"We do love each other. I really love working with them and they seem to love me. We have a wonderful time on Tuesday nights," Mayhew said. "It's been a great first year."
Looking to next year, Mayhew is to continue with the Heidelberg University-Community Chorus, and to direct the Singing Collegians, a student show choir. Mayhew said he would like to add chorus pieces in Latin, German, French and Italian. He also was excited about Heidelberg students working with the Ritz Players again at some point, as they did for "Hairspray." Another goal is to collaborate with Micheal Anders, a Heidelberg alumnus who directs the University of Findlay-Community Chorus. The two directors have discussed performing joint concerts in Tiffin and Findlay.
The Heidelberg University-Community Chorus concert is free and open to the public. Rehearsals for the chourus are to resume in the fall, and adults of all ages are welcome to join.