Altos in the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County are, from left, Pat McMinds, Mary Jo Mackenzie, Cass Dahlstrom and Jody Glaubman, shown here rehearsing for the Community Chorus concerts slated tonight and Sunday, which will salute the national parks. (Sue Reid)

Altos in the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County are, from left, Pat McMinds, Mary Jo Mackenzie, Cass Dahlstrom and Jody Glaubman, shown here rehearsing for the Community Chorus concerts slated tonight and Sunday, which will salute the national parks. (Sue Reid)

Natural wonders fuel Community Chorus concerts

The grandeur of nature and the national parks will be celebrated in song when the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County presents its spring program in two concerts this weekend.

Performances will be at 7 tonight at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 45 Redeemer Way in Chimacum, and at 3 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, 1111 Franklin St., in Port Townsend.

Tickets are $15 and are available at www.brownpapertickets.com, Crossroads Music in Port Townsend or by calling 360-385-1471. Admission also is by suggested donation at the door.

Director Leslie Lewis appreciates history and tradition and also likes to honor anniversaries, she said, noting that the National Park Service marked a milestone last August when it celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding.

‘Cherish pivotal events’

“It’s important to remember and cherish pivotal events and those who came before us — the forward-thinking people who believed in something, fought for something or achieved something for the future of our country and for the planet,” Lewis said in a news release.

According to the National Park Service website, writer and historian Wallace Stegner once called the national parks “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

Said chorus singer Cris Wilson, who also serves on the organization’s board of directors: “If you didn’t make it to a national park this year, you owe it to yourself to come to this concert.”

Lewis selected songs to fit the theme, both literally and symbolically.

“The very idea of a national park system is that these treasures belong to all of us, so ‘This Land is Your Land’ was a no-brainer,” she said.

“The beauty of our natural wonders just called out for an arrangement of ‘America the Beautiful,’ and I was able to find a wonderful new arrangement that is thrilling to sing and to hear.”

Lewis also found a song specific to Yellowstone Park and one to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, a national monument, in “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” set to the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus,” which was written in 1883 and includes the lines “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Singer and board member Lee Ann Chearneyi grew up on the East Coast.

“As a city girl on the East Coast, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty stood as my experience of our national parks,” Chearneyi said.

“Because my grandmother came to this country from Sicily at 5 years old through Ellis Island in 1912, I see it not only as a gateway to being an American but as a gateway to America — glacier and mountain, ocean and orchard, canyon and prairie.”

Music about the parks and the wonders of the natural world form half of the program.

Lewis has paired songs of hope and inspiration with the park theme to highlight the second portion of the program.

“The ‘hope and inspiration’ half needed to include songs that choral singers love to sing,” Lewis said.

“It features pieces that are by turns lovely, jubilant or express a text of determination, such as the lyrics of ‘We Rise Again.’ ”

“Why do we keep doing what we do as choral singers? We love the music; we love the sense of community; we love the power of combining our voices together to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” Lewis continued.

Lewis will add context to the music by sprinkling it with the spoken word — in this case, quotes about the national parks and nature by such luminaries as John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt and Ansel Adams.

Lewis said the idea of a visual element in the form of a slideshow came early on for her.

She has enjoyed assembling iconic images of parks such as Crater Lake, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Redwood, Shenandoah and Death Valley.

Lewis credits pianist Lisa Lanza, who regularly accompanies the chorus in the spring programs, for helping to pull the concerts together.

Instrumentalists with guest roles include Kim Clarke, trumpet, and Al Thompson, clarinet.

Lewis is also appreciative of the contributions of bonus rehearsal leader Jonathan Stafford, pianist Diane Thompson and others who help with extra rehearsals.

“Linda Atkins, our board president, is a jewel, as is the entire chorus board,” Lewis said. “They volunteer hundreds of hours to the chorus.”

“We hope that this concert gives audiences the hope and inspiration that it’s given us,” Wilson said. The songs in the program are “what we’re all about as singers, as a community, as Americans.”

For general information about the Community Chorus or the spring concerts, go to www.ptchorus.org or call 360-385-1402.

Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County tenors, in the front row from left, Tim Whicher and Kirit Bhansali and the rest of the choir get ready for two upcoming concerts. (Lynn Nowak)

Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County tenors, in the front row from left, Tim Whicher and Kirit Bhansali and the rest of the choir get ready for two upcoming concerts. (Lynn Nowak)

Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County Director Leslie Lewis, left, and pianist Lisa Lanza are teaming up again for the Community Chorus spring program this weekend. (Lee Ann Chearneyi)

Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County Director Leslie Lewis, left, and pianist Lisa Lanza are teaming up again for the Community Chorus spring program this weekend. (Lee Ann Chearneyi)

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