Park City Singers director prepares winter-season joy in the summer
Christmas concert rehearsals begin Sept. 12
Park City Singers Rehearsals
- When: 7 p.m., Tuesdays, starting Sept. 12
- Where: Park City Community Church, 4501 N. S.R. 224
- Web: parkcitysingers.org
Joe Demers has spent the past three months listening to and recording Christmas music.
The reason is simple. As the director of the Park City Singers, Demers needed to select songs and create practice files for the local non-audition choir’s upcoming holiday-concert rehearsals that start on Tuesday, Sept. 12.
“We’re excited to start the season,” he said.
Joining the chorus is easy. Singers can register by visiting parkcitysingers.org.
“There is a $45 registration fee, and we encourage people to register ahead of time online,” Demers said. “That will be helpful so we can start rehearsals on time.”
Rehearsals are held at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at Park City Community Church 4501 N. S.R. 224, and the choir has scheduled two concerts, Dec. 10 and 16, at the church, according to Demers.
“We hope to have as many singers as we did last year,” he said. “We had 60, and it was a great season.”
Last year also marked a robust season for men’s voices, which the Park City Singers usually don’t have, Demers said.
“I’m hoping they all come back, but I’m always going to stress the fact that we need men,” he said. “More is better.”
Park City Singers also would like to recruit more sopranos, Demers said.
“We were a little light on sopranos last year, but they were great,” he said. “And while we do have a good group of altos, we will always welcome more.”
One of the reasons Demers thinks the choir had filled up last year was because it was the first season of performing after taking a COVID-19 break.
“We had not met for three years, since 2019, and I think that also sparked the excitement in people who looked forward to coming back together,” he said. “But when we did our season last year, we chose to pull our music that we had done in the previous three to four years to make it easier for the singers’ return.”
This year, the performances will feature new songs, and songs that the choir hasn’t performed in a long time, according to Demers.
“We have a new librarian, Margaret Messina, and she put a spreadsheet together of all the songs in our library, so we know exactly what we have,” he said.
Messina, Demers and one of the singers, Darla Cardwell, referred to the spreadsheet to select the songs for this year’s concerts.
“We went into the deep recesses of the library, and chose some cool pieces, and we also added a couple of new pieces,” Demers said.
Some of the revivals include the lively “Festival Sanctus,” the ever popular “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” from Handel’s “Messiah,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” “A Christmas Proclamation” and “We Need a Little Christmas,” Demers said.
“We also will perform a new twist on ‘Jingle Bells’ called ‘Nutcracker Jingles,'” he said. “It’s a cute little piece that includes snippets of ‘The Nutcracker.’ Who knows when that was last performed, but like I said, we are going into the deep recesses of the library.”
New pieces include “Merry Christmas, Darling” and “African Alleluia,” Demers said.
“Merry Christmas, Darling” was released in 1978 by the brother-and-sister pop duo, The Carpenters, and “African Alleluia” is a syncopated hymn that caught Demers’ ear.
“We wanted to perform this piece and showcase the multi-cultural aspect for diversity,” he said.
The concerts will also feature some breakout pieces for the women and men, Demers said.
“We’re really excited for the new season, and Darla, and myself, have been putting the digital learning files together,” he said. “She’s been recording the soprano and alto parts, and I’ve been recording the tenor and bass parts. This is very helpful for the singers, especially those who haven’t been with us before, to learn the pieces.”
The concerts will be accompanied by pianist Katy Lillquist, known for her work with The Park City Follies, a local musical production that lampoons all things Park City.
“Katy received all the music in June, and has been furiously practicing,” said Demers, who actually enjoys listening to Christmas music during the summer. “I think it’s exciting. Being a musician all my life, this is something you just do in order to be prepped and ready. Music stores also start offering sessions where people can start coming in to read choral music for the upcoming season. So it just goes with the territory.”
In addition to showing his appreciation to the Park City Singers’ board members, including B.J. Reed, Marry Gootjes and treasurer Willa Fleming-Harkness, Demers wanted to thank the Park City Community Church.
“They work well with us and support us,” he said. “We usually call them in January, right after our concerts, and tell them what we’re thinking for rehearsals and concerts.”
The church administration, including Reverend Elizabeth McVicker, gives Demers a choice of dates, which he then schedules.
“One of the things we try to do is make sure we leave the church as we find it every week before rehearsals,” he said. “We make sure the piano cover is back on, and the chairs and stands are back where they should be. It’s a community effort, which is great, because they are a community church.”
Park City Institute’s 2023-24 Main Stage season includes Grammy winners, historians, dance and a puppy show.
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