August 1998 marks the beginning for the Elk County Concert Choir.
Back when it began, it was known as the Ridgway Concert Choir. It wasn’t until members outside of Ridgway wanted to join when the name was changed. The choir was formed by Barbara Warmbier Whitehouse. Whitehouse molded the choir to dedicate a new organ to the First Presbyterian Church in Ridgway.
World renowned musician Jon Freeburg, who was a Ridgway native, had helped inspire the choir.
“Jon was going to be the organ player and he suggested forming a choir from the community to dedicate it,” said Ron Capuano, an original member of the choir. “After the dedication we really enjoyed singing so we became the Ridgway Concert Choir.”
Thirteen years later, many original members still remain actively involved. In the sopranos: Gloria Almquist-Shull, Melinda Gasbarre, JoAnn Castle, Lois DeVilling, Georganne Freeburg, Edith Gardner, Darien Kontes, Noma Olay, Bev Yates and Gloria Udarbe; in the altos, Barb Gresh and Mary Lou Riegel; the tenors are Ron Capuano and Jack Cleaver; bass is Warren Riegel.
Fellowship and friendship is a pertinent reason why members remain involved.
“I continue to be a part of the choir because I enjoy it,” Gresh said. “I am so proud of what we have accomplished. It is an outstanding group of people and I feel good singing with them.”
Some members have a musical background to offer but others simply have a passion for music.
“It is probably one of the best releases of all time,” Kontes said. “We have a good time; there is a lot of camaraderie. I sang in choirs in high school but I have no professional background. No one is professional singers, but we all learn from each other and have a good time.”
Being involved musically is attractive to members with a musical foundation.
“I’ve personally been in music all my life. I used to play the clarinet and saxophone. I’ve been in a mixed choir, men’s glee club and sang in a barbershop quartet in college,” Capuano said. “I come back because of my love of music, the people, camaraderie and fellowship.”
Almquist-Shull has only been Principal Director for a few years but has been involved since the choir’s beginning. “The people just enjoyed singing with each other so we remained a choir,” Almquist-Shull said. “It is a wonderful thing to have this for the community.”
The Elk County Concert Choir will be performing the "Tapestry of Light: a Celtic Christmas Celebration." The shows are scheduled for tonight at 7:30 p.m. at St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Ridgway and Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in St. Marys. Admission is free, and refreshments will be provided.
Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.