PORT TOWNSEND — Wild Rose Chorale of Port Townsend will mark its 30th anniversary singing a cappella with a pair of in-person concerts next weekend.
The ensemble celebrates the milestone anniversary with concerts this coming Friday, June 17, and on Sunday, June 19. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. June 19 at Grace Lutheran Church, 1120 Walker St., in Port Townsend.
Admission will be a $20 suggested donation at the door.
A cappella is defined as singing without instrumental accompaniment, but Wild Rose Choral members say it is much more than that.
“A cappella singing can be challenging, especially with its tight harmonies and seemingly dissonant chords – all without instrumental support. But the outcome is that much more rewarding,” said tenor Steve Duniho.
“When it comes together, it’s magical and emotional.”
COVID-19 safety protocols will be observed at the concerts; audience members will be required to show proof of vaccination and remain masked during the program.
Director and soprano Leslie Lewis said it’s exciting to be singing spring concerts again after two years of disruption due to the pandemic.
Even though health precautions will be part of singers’ lives for a while to come, “at least we’re singing again,” she continued. “There’s just no satisfactory electronic substitute for live music — for us singers or for our audience.”
Duniho said that a cappella singing “brings us in touch with our most basic musical identity.
“I believe that it was our first form of human music before we even started fashioning instruments.”
Longtime member Al Thompson, bass, went a step further, calling a cappella vocal music one of the purest natural art forms.
Thompson and three other members have logged 20 years or more with the ensemble, some nearing the 30-year mark.
“I attribute our longevity to the fact that most of our members realize that we have something special going on here, and they value their membership with the group,” Lewis said.
“They want to be part of something challenging and good.”
Tenor Chuck Helman concurred.
“After singing with the group for 28 years, I still think it’s a gift.”
To commemorate so many years of singing, the singers will present a handful of favorite songs from the past in their upcoming concerts.
“Along with the old favorites, we are including some compositions that speak to current world concerns, including ‘Ukrainian Alleluia,’ as well as some wonderful new, up-tempo celebratory songs,” Lewis said.
Two examples are “Take On Me,” popularized by the group a-ha, and “This Is Me,” sometimes described as a fight song for the underdog, from the movie musical, “The Greatest Showman.”
The group was formed in 1992 to help commemorate the opening of the Rose Theatre. No founding members remain in its present incarnation, although one current singer joined later that year.
The roster has included more than 40 people in total, and at any given time, membership has ranged from seven to 12 singers.
Wild Rose has presented its own community concerts, hosted other music groups in its popular holiday Wild Rose & Friends concerts, caroled for Main Street and Santa’s arrival in December, entertained at private parties and for service groups, and sung for weddings, funerals and other life events.
Lewis said favorite memories over her own 27 years include laughing together during rehearsal, crafting quality concerts together year after year, and sharing good times and bad with fellow Rosers.
“Oh, and then there was the time that Lynn Nowak accidentally dropped her kazoo into the toilet at Turtle Bluff,” she said.
Besides being proud of the lasting nature of the group, the singers are pleased to help foster young people in their musical pursuits, often
The group offers an internship to promising young choristers, and also, for several years, has awarded scholarships to high school seniors and college-age students.
After a scholarship hiatus in 2021, this year, the group is awarding a $2,000 scholarship each to two of its own, Eugenia and Viola Frank, seniors and top scholars in the Pi Program at Chimacum High School.
Choir students of Lewis’s in the Port Townsend Youth Chorus and the PT Vocal Ensemble, the twins participated in Wild Rose & Friends holiday concerts for many years, then assisted as interns in 2019 and for a holiday Candlelight Concert in 2021. They transitioned to “honorary members” this year in preparation for the current concerts.
“I know a cappella has grown leaps and bounds since we started. There are so many more arrangements to choose from. Maybe that’s part of why we’re still able to perform,” Helman said.
“There’s music out there that makes me laugh and makes me cry.
“When we perform a song and I look out at the audience and I see real emotions on their faces, that’s when I know I’ve done my job. That’s what brings me back.”