Season finale concert celebrates 25 years for Oxford Civic Chorus

Published 11:00 am Monday, April 29, 2024

They range in age from teens to 80-something. Most are Oxonians, some are transplants, and others commute from neighboring towns and counties including Batesville, Pontotoc, Tupelo, Holly Springs and Blue Mountain.

They are students, teachers, professionals of all kinds, and retirees. But they share one common denominator: They all love to sing.

Since its first performance in November 1998, Oxford Civic Chorus has been enriching north Mississippi communities with quality choral music.

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Its silver jubilee concert “Oxford Sings!” takes place at 3 p.m. on May 4 at David H. Nutt Auditorium in Oxford, and at 4 p.m. on May 5 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo.

Admission is free.

Artistic directors Debra Atkinson and Creighton Holder took over leadership of the choir in 2021, bringing the total number of directors to 10. The pair tag-team directing and accompanying the 50 or so members. Some have a background in music, but the main requirement to join is just the ability to match pitch and a love of singing.

“This concert has a lot of special meaning for the choir because there are several members who have been there for the entire time the choir has been in existence,” Atkinson said. “We are thrilled to celebrate 25 years of choral excellence in Oxford,” Holder said. “Between the beautiful melodies and the orchestra, there’s something for everyone in this concert.”

The one-hour program begins with six choral octavos based on texts that have to do with why singing is so important to us, as singers and as human beings.

The second half of the program features a brand-new work by Elaine Hagenberg, “Illuminare.”

The Oxford High School choir will take the stage with the Oxford Civic Chorus for this work, treating audiences to the sound of more than 100 singers with orchestral accompaniment.

Thomas Ardrey directs the OHS choir and is a former artistic director of OCC.

“This concert is special because this is one of the first performances of “Illuminare” in the state of Mississippi,” Ardrey said. “I think the audience is going to enjoy how relatable this music sounds. Sometimes music with choirs and orchestra can almost be esoteric, but this is very easy for your ear to enjoy and I think a lot of people are going to walk away with this wonderful feeling.”

It’s been almost 10 years since the two choirs joined forces, but future plans for collaboration with OHS and other choirs are in the works.

“It is great to team up with this organization,” Ardrey said. “As a former artistic director of Oxford Civic Chorus, it means a lot.”

“We’re excited to collaborate with Oxford High School and celebrate the next generation of musicians,” Holder said.

“I think that everyone will find something that they can relate to in this 25th year concert celebration,” Atkinson said.