Thriving Fletcher Community Chorus Welcomes Novices

Auditions are not required to sing in Fletcher Community Chorus. Carry a tune, match a pitch, make a joyful noise, and you’re in. Photo by Matt Rose.

Auditions are not required to sing in Fletcher Community Chorus. Carry a tune, match a pitch, make a joyful noise, and you’re in. Photo by Matt Rose.

The Fletcher Community Chorus seeks brave souls who want to sing and can carry a tune. Amateur singers are welcome. And no experience is necessary.

These relatively loose requirements are exactly why the thriving chorus appeals to the community at large, according to Director Christine Georger. There’s a need for a safe, fun environment to sing in, she says. Since Georger began leading the group five years ago, it has doubled its ranks to 30 plus.

“People like it. It fits a niche. Many members are in the chorus as a way to get back to participation in music like they did in school,” she explains. “They want that social connection, and to sing and feel good about it and feel good about their performance.”

The chorus caters to those who may not sing in a church choir or identify with larger regional groups, such as Asheville Choral Society or Hendersonville Chorale, that require an audition process. (Georger doesn’t.)

Obviously, not everyone has musical ability, she admits — but she encourages a positive experience. Members, who include a chemist and an engineer, don’t even have to read music. And most of the time, it works.

“I do say to people, ‘The only requirement is that you can carry a tune or match a pitch,’” she says. “But they know that.”

At first, Judy Grobe of Asheville played flute with the group. Convinced to start singing, she says now that she’ll never stop.

“I have a great deal of fun,” Grobe says. She was among the founding seven members of the chorus in 2007. “It takes me away from the stress of the day.”

Singers range in age from 32 on up, and Grobe is among many members nearing retirement age who get a charge out of participating. She attributes the chorus’s growth and appeal to its good-time reputation: “We lose a few and gain a few every semester, but they always say, ‘I’ll be back.’”

Mary Farnsworth helped launch the group from a seed grant via the Fletcher Arts and Heritage Association. The chorus was hatched at the kitchen table of her neighbor, Dean Helman, and the chorus’s first director, King Goslin.
“Our mission has always been to lift high our common humanity through the joy of singing,” Farnsworth says.

As a retiree, she sees the difference after every rehearsal. “I can tell you many of us go into rehearsal tired and walk out invigorated.”

Fletcher Community Chorus rehearses weekly in the spring and fall and concentrates on fresh takes of familiar tunes from the WWII era through the ’70s. The group’s accompanist since inception has been Anita Freeman of West Asheville. Two upcoming free holiday concerts will include a non-traditional arrangement of “Silent Night.” All concerts end with a sing-a-long.

“We do jazz standards. We do spirituals. We do novelty numbers. I try to do a lot of variety,” Georger says. “We do some things that might be more difficult and challenging, but we also balance that with things that are fun and familiar.”

Jazzy influences are part of Georger’s background. When she was growing up in Rochester, N.Y., her father played the saxophone in a band, and she remembers her home filled with music, including her own impromptu singing. As it turns out, she had an aptitude. Exposure to her dad’s jazz instilled a love of music that expanded when she took up the piano in third grade.

By day, Georger, 56, teaches music at Hillandale Elementary in East Flat Rock. Before that, she taught music education in New York State. She also directed community choruses and worked in community theater.

The chorus schedules half-a-dozen public performances each season, visiting regional retirement and assisted-living facilities in an effort to reach out. Gratification is mutual and swift. The singers, Georger says, immediately gain feedback.

“Research shows that there are many health benefits to singing, and the positive effects are even more pronounced when singing in a group where you experience social connections,” she says.

Holiday performances of Fletcher Community Chorus are Thursday, December 3, 7pm at Opportunity House (1411 Asheville Hwy. in Hendersonville), and Thursday, December 10, 7pm, at the Feed & Seed (3715 Hendersonville Road in Fletcher). Free. See fletchercommunitychorus.com for more info.

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