By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
SHENANGO VALLEY — Christmas comes earlier every year. And this year is no exception, as organizers of the Shenango Valley Chorale would like everyone to start voting tomorrow for their favorite Christmas song.
Both as a way of sparking an interest among those who may not already be fans of the 42-year-old vocal group and as a way to infuse some money into a “very, very modest” budget, the ballot contest asks voters to choose their favorite Christmas tune from the list of 27 well-known songs and the group will sing as many as 10 songs from the top vote-getters.
The cost to cast the ballot is $5 for each song, said Chuck Roberts, who, by his own definition is “just a baritone.” He also serves on its board of directors and is chairman of the technical committee.
Ideally, the group would like to see 4,000 votes cast, Roberts said, which could bring the group $20,000. The money, he said, is needed to keep the organization going. “It’s for survival, really.”
He said he thinks residents of the Shenango Valley may not have the appreciation for the arts as much as other areas of the country do. “I have no idea why. Arts are just not well-received here. I have friends in other arts, in other forms of music, and acting and plays. We’re all literally existing from performance to performance. But we offer music that you would find in bigger cities.”
Having audience participation in the selection of the music might help boost attendance, he said. Two years ago, during the group’s 40th anniversary celebration, there were two sold-out performances. “Obviously, we’d like that happen again,” he added.
“The human voice is a beautiful instrument. A well-trained voice like Pavarotti or Caruso can make massive sums of money. The Chorale is a controlled group of voices, a dynamic that is directed by maestro Edward Groves who has accumulated years of experience and who understands and appreciates music to a degree that is just unbelievable,” Roberts said.
And to that end, Roberts wants the audience to understand that even though the selected songs will be familiar in name, they may not sound like the popular recorded versions that people grew up with. “The songs we selected are steeped in tradition. They are classical. But it doesn’t mean they will be sung that way and that’s because we have arrangements of them that are fabulous,” he said.
“They’ll be an unbelievable blended melody sung in a very different way,” Robert said. And because Groves wants the concert to have a dignified performance, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer will not be included, he said.
The ballots will be available on the Shenango Valley Chorale’s facebook page and on the organization’s web page, www.shenangovalleychorale.com Electronic voting isn’t possible, Roberts said, because of the costs associated with processing credit card information.
The Chorale faces an uphill battle trying to offer professional performances with tight funds, he said. Because many of the concerts involve hiring an orchestra, much of the group’s finances go towards that. Programs that are printed for each of the concerts are done for a stipend by a person who is a friend, Roberts said.
“And because he’s doing it as a favor to us, we have a deadline to meet in order not to disrupt his actual business,” he said. “So while our maestro may prefer to wait until November, when people are really starting to get excited about Christmas to pick the songs, on a practical level we can’t do that. If we need to order a particular arrangement that takes time. So does the practice. Much of our music is very intense. It isn’t easy,” he said.
Auditions were held this weekend for new Chorale members, he said. There are about 100 members who perform in the holiday concert and about 80 for the spring concert. The concerts are held in various churches between the Shenango Valley and Greenville and often in conjunction with the Greenville symphony, he said.
The Chorale itself isn’t licensed to sell recordings of its music, but copies are available through www.helselmusic.com
See Sunday's print edition for a ballot. Votes for the holiday songs will be accepted until Oct.18. Anyone interested in voting can choose from the list of songs and mail the money to The Shenango Valley Chorale, P.O. Box 509, Sharon, Pa. 16146. The winning songs will be announced Nov. 1.