Virginia Beach Chorale
Interview by Louise Casini Hollis. Images courtesy of Virginia Beach Chorale.
This week, Spotlight Saturdays spoke with Christine Lewis, Presidents of Virginia Beach Chorale. Founded in 1958, Virginia Beach Chorale boats over 100 members and is southeastern Virginia’s longest-tenured performing arts ensemble.
What is your mission statement, and how do you decide on a program that fulfills your mission statement? For over 60 years, the Virginia Beach Chorale has been a proud member of the local arts community. The Virginia Beach Chorale has performed at all the Virginia Beach concert hotspots: the Dome, the Pavilion, and, now, the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts. Our mission is to enhance the cultural and musical life of the community and to provide an opportunity for those interested in choral music to participate in these musical endeavors. The Virginia Beach Chorale has a two-fold mission focused on accessibility to the art of choral music. One side of that mission is to provide performance opportunities for community singers who want to take part in a collective musical experience. The other side of that mission is to provide high-quality choral music performances to local audiences at an affordable cost. Our artistic director, Dr. Don Krudop, aims to include familiar favorites in each concert, as well as present newer compositions to broaden the musical literacy of our singers and audiences. We are proud to be a resident company of the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.
What education programs are offered? Each December, we host a different local high school choir as our special guests at our holiday performance at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts. Every May, we are honored to present the Lou Sawyer Memorial Scholarship in Music to a graduating high school senior who will be continuing their musical studies at the collegiate level. These scholarship recipients perform as part of our concert line-up at our May performance at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.
What makes your work unique to our community, and why is that important? The Virginia Beach Chorale performs a varied repertoire, from classical to contemporary, jazz to pop, and everything in between. In addition to our two major concerts each season, the Virginia Beach Chorale is proud to participate in collaborative and benefit performances throughout the year. Our singers have shared the stage with other local arts groups, such as Symphonicity, Tidewater Winds, the Virginia Wind Symphony, and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. We have also had the pleasure of singing with the Atlantic Forces Fleet Band, The Tenors, and Kenny Rogers.
How have you/ your staff been handling COVID/ what have you been doing since the shutdown? Despite our 60 year history, nothing could have prepared us for how the COVID-19 pandemic would dramatically affect our participation in the arts. Due to the highly contagious nature of the disease, and the number of volunteer singers we have, it would not have been prudent for us to continue rehearsing and performing during this time. Additionally, with the current research indicating that singing may transmit the virus, the Virginia Beach Chorale has been forced to pause and take a hiatus until our singers can come together again safely. This comes as a tremendous disappointment to all of us, but we know that this is what is best for our singers and audience members.
What adjustments has the virus caused to your schedule? While we are in hopes that we will be able to resume rehearsals and possibly perform this Fall, there is too much uncertainty at this time to make any definitive plans.
Where are you in your planning for next year? It is our greatest hope to be back on stage in the spring of 2021. We have a tremendous project planned: “Sing Me to Heaven: The Music of Daniel Gawthrop”. Daniel Gawthrop is a distinguished contemporary composer and his celebrated work, “Sing Me to Heaven” is one of the most loved, most performed modern choral works. In addition to singing the music of Mr. Gawthrop, the audience will be invited to join together as a mass choir to perform “Sing Me to Heaven”.
The cornerstone of this performance, however, will be the world premiere of a new work by Mr. Gawthrop. The Virginia Beach Chorale has commissioned Mr. Gawthrop to compose a song dedicated to the City of Virginia Beach, in remembrance of the tragic events of May 31, 2019. Understanding the incredible power of music, it is our intention to offer a composition that recognizes the hurt and rawness of this tragedy while also embracing the love that echoed through our community during this time. It is our hope that this piece will play a small role in helping our community, and others like ours, to heal.
Where can people find you for partnering and donations? The Virginia Beach Chorale is still accepting donations towards this project and is seeking corporate sponsors who are interested in partnering with us on this event. More information and online donation opportunities can be found at the Virginia Beach Chorale website and tax-deductible donations can be mailed to: Commission Fund c/o The Virginia Beach Chorale 4831 Columbus St. #66214 Virginia Beach, VA 23466