NEWBERRY — The Newberry Community Choir will be spreading holiday cheer one final time at their annual holiday program next Friday through Sunday.
The choir has been in existence for 25 years, and Mary Ann Hayes, who has directed the programs, says that although this is the final Christmas program, the choir will remain together.
“We’re simply just changing direction. We’ll all still stay together,” Hayes said. “I’ll still stay as the director, but we’re probably going to do a more patriotic program late June. Right now, the date is scheduled for the last week in June at Newberry Elementary where we always perform. That’s the plan at this point.”
The Community Choir started with around five churches and since has expanded to around 25 churches that are included in the program.
“Twenty five years ago, a group of people came to me and said they just wanted to have a group where they could sing,” she said. “A lot of them came from more rural churches where the opportunities to be in a big choir were not there. So we kind of grew the idea and now we have people that come from Saluda, Columbia and Irmo to rehearse on Monday nights.
“We come from all walks of life. There are no requirements. You don’t have to read music. All you have to do is come and be willing to learn, listen to rehearsal CDs and memorize the music, which is really the biggest requirement,” she added. “That’s what usually scares people off, but we rehearse so much that you eventually pick it up.”
Leading up to show day, the choir rehearses every Monday night at 6:30 for about an hour and a half. On the week of performances, the choir will begin rehearsing Monday and continue through Thursday starting at 6:30. The choir began preparing for this year’s show in the middle of August and plans to start preparing for their patriotic program in the middle of March.
“It takes about a good 12 to 15 weeks to learn something to where you can memorize it and feel like you are performing it to the best of your ability,” Hayes said.
Hayes said this year’s choir might be the largest to participate in the Christmas program. The number of singers — 71 — swells to about 90 when the production workers, characters and backstage workers are counted.
“My name is on the program, but that’s only one person. It takes every single person to make this a success and everybody works together so well,” she said.
In this year’s program, the traditional story of Christmas will be told but from a different perspective.
“Tom Perry, who is one of our choir members, wrote the narration this year from the standpoint of Anna and Simeon, two characters in the Bible and then a woman from Bethlehem, who is a character he supposed was there. So it’s very interesting and I think it’s going to grab the audience and really get them to listen,” she said.
To cap off the final show, the choir will sing a variety of songs from past shows as well as four new songs. The show will conclude with We Believe, a song that the show has ended with for the past three years.
“We’ll have traditional carols, a very funky classical medley that we think people will enjoy and is very youthful. We’ve got some really exciting things going on. We always try to have something that will make the kids and adults smile,” Hayes said. “One of the neatest things is we have a children’s choir, too. We have 11 children and nine of them are grandchildren of charter members, which I think is wonderful. They do such a wonderful job.”
Along with the Christmas programs, the Community Choir also holds Easter programs. The choir held their final Easter program in March. Hayes said that the reasoning behind the final performance is because not only are the singers getting older, but because of the demanding schedule that comes with preparing for programs.
Also on show nights, the Community Choir is partnering with the Sheriff’s Department with Operation Santa Claus, where the public is encouraged to bring an unwrapped Christmas present to put in the lobby before the show to help needy families.
With the final performances coming up, Hayes said that she would love to see a packed house to celebrate the final show.The dates and times for the shows are Dec. 2 at 8 p.m., Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 4 at 3 p.m.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.