REGION – The Yankee Male Chorus has announced the concerts for their annual tour for this season. Sadly, unlike 64 years before, since 1954, this will be the group’s last season. They will appear at the First Congregational Church in West Brattleboro Aug. 8, the First Baptist Church of South Londonderry Aug. 9, The United Church of Bellows Falls Aug. 10, and at the First Baptist Church of Chester Aug. 11. All concerts will start at 7:30 p.m.
They will sing “standard male glee club fare” that includes “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Over the Rainbow,” and what has become their theme song, “River in Judea.” A free offering will be taken at intermission; no tickets are necessary. The chorus is made up of all volunteers who sing just for fun. Michael Wright returns as primary conductor, and Judith “Eric” Robinson will also be conducting as well and accompanying at the piano.
It was started by Roland Heermance, a music conductor, who felt a traveling “vacation” chorus would be good in summers when churches dispensed with choirs. Pete Harrison of Westminster is the group’s spokesperson and site coordinator. He has been singing with them since 1974. He says there will be 30 or more singers for this year’s concerts and that “Thirty men can make a nice sound.”
Due to singers’ schedules, the number participating sometimes varies from concert to concert. The chorus has numbered as many as 40 to 70 singers over the years. He says that recently the chorus has been made up mostly of singers from New York and the Catskills and less New Englanders. Many of the locals have passed on or moved away in retirement. Participants pay their own way here and for lodging.
Harrison says, “The fellowship, love of music, and camaraderie are very special for everyone.” There is always a final party with much “singing around the piano.” He also speaks of high points in their history such as their 50th anniversary year when they had 100 singers and their appearance at Tangle Wood for the July Fourth concert in 1976.
The chorus gathers here for one rehearsal then four concerts in the region returning to venues every three or four years. But, Harrison says, sadly times have changed. Now in a less traditional world there are becoming less volunteers stepping up to staff concerts and less sponsors willing to support the concerts. Last year, the group decided to meet and perform one more time. Harrison says, “It will be hard to say goodbye.”
Instead members will say, “Keep a song in your heart.”
For more information, you may call Pete Harrison at 802-722-3080.