Nostalgic tunes are chorus concerts’ centerpiece

Lynn Nowak | Special to The Leader  
Posted 4/14/23

The Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County presents a tribute to the much-loved, popular music of the Broadway stage this weekend.

Concerts with a “Let Us Entertain …

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Nostalgic tunes are chorus concerts’ centerpiece


The Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County presents a tribute to the much-loved, popular music of the Broadway stage this weekend.

Concerts with a “Let Us Entertain You” theme are at
7 p.m. Friday, April 14 at First Presbyterian Church, 1111 Franklin St., in Port Townsend, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 16 at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 45 Redeemer Way in Chimacum.

Favorite Broadway melodies and lyrics, in effect, form a soundtrack to the 20th century. Even if they don’t know a full song or all of the words, most people of a certain age can find themselves humming along to snippets of “Climb Every Mountain” from “The Sound of Music,” “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady,” or “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables.”

The chorus performs full songs or medleys from these musicals and more, including “Oliver,” “Mamma Mia,” “Carousel,” “Funny Girl,” and “Gypsy.” 

Bringing the lineup into the 21st century, spring chorus director Jonathan Stafford also has included a piece from “Hamilton” on this program.

“I decided to do a Broadway revue as a way to get people excited to sing, and to recruit some new faces and voices,” Stafford said. 

The songs in his lineup include many familiar favorites as well as a couple of contemporary classics. 

“Much of the music is woven into the fabric of our society and resonates with singers and audiences alike,” Stafford added.

Names including George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, and now Lin-Manuel Miranda, have given musical theater its rich heritage. But, Stafford said, in looking for spring repertoire, he discovered a book of medleys by Jule Styne, a composer born in England but who spent most of his career as a songwriter in the United States.

“I fell in love with the brilliant melodies and upbeat tunes and felt like it was a good centerpiece for the concert. Although most of us know several Jule Stein pieces, he doesn’t get the recognition of other American composers. Highlighting his choral works has been a lot of fun for me and the group.”

Linda Atkins, an alto and president of the chorus, concurred with Stafford. “Revisiting these songs has been terrific fun for the singers. And they have really stepped up to learn the tricky parts,” she said.

Since the choir started up again last fall after its extended absence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Atkins said the membership has displayed real dedication and commitment to singing. 

“It’s a challenge to sing with a mask on, for instance, but folks show up every week and put their all into learning this great music to present to their friends, family, and the community,” Atkins said.

For Joan Coyne, a soprano who serves on the board, singing songs from the musical “Oliver” is quite nostalgic. “I have very fond memories of seeing the movie as a child. My grandparents took me to see it at the Wheel-In drive-in movie theater, and I was absolutely mesmerized. So, to be singing those pieces more than 50 years later has been an absolute delight for me.”

Bass David Segleau, who also serves on the board, said what he is enjoying about this season is how the group is embracing Broadway, but not just the Broadway of old. 

“I especially love ‘Bring Him Home’ from ‘Les Miserables,’ which is such a beautiful and moving piece of music,” he said.

The song “Happiness” from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” holds a special place in director Stafford’s heart. 

“When I was in high school, I got to perform Linus in that musical and it was the experience of a lifetime!” he recalled.

Stafford calls these Broadway concerts his “maiden voyage” as solo conductor. He had prepared a program for spring concerts in 2020, which was well underway when COVID hit in March; the chorus never performed that repertoire. 

Stafford said he hopes to eventually use some of those songs from that lost season, but for this spring, he was interested in starting fresh.

The Community Chorus is special, Stafford said, because it has offered a home for singers, pianists, conductors, soloists, and guest musicians since 1975. All voices are welcome. 

“The chorus provides a platform for talented people like accompanist Liz Hopkins to shine and show off her virtuosic piano chops,” Stafford added, noting that the board of directors works tirelessly to make everyone feel at home and to provide the best experience for singers and staff.

“In my mind, the role of a conductor is to have a vision of a concert and make the sound in your head come to life. The Community Chorus gives me a chance to bring the song in my heart to the community,” he said.

As Beth Cahape, soprano and the newest member of the board of directors put it: “Singing all these old Broadway show tunes has been an absolute blast, and I think it will show in the enthusiasm of our performance. It’s also been a wonderful way to welcome so many new singers. Between this program and especially after our COVID hiatus, I’ve fallen in love with this choir all over again.”

Tickets for the concerts are a suggested $15 donation at the door. To protect singers and audiences, masks are encouraged at the venues.

For more information, visit ptchorus.org, call 360-643-3345, or like the organization on Facebook.