Oxford Civic Chorus returns with new director and welcomes new members – The Oxford Eagle
By Allison Estes
After an 18 month hiatus, Oxford Civic Chorus will meet again with a new director and actively seek new members. Rehearsals take place Mondays from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, University of Oxford. Adults 18 and over who wish to register can simply attend the first rehearsal on August 23. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required. Learn more at [email protected] or 601-573-5351.
The members perform choral music in many languages and forms, which is accessible to singers while extending them both musically and culturally. They have the opportunity to master the basics of good singing, expand their ability to read music, and learn to thrive in a performing environment. Semester fees are $ 50, $ 25 for students, and help offset the cost of music and operations. A limited number of need-based scholarships are available.
“We can’t wait to get back to singing after the layoff,” said OCC board chair Greg Mitchell. “In addition to our returning singers, I have heard several people joining us for the first time. We welcome all ages – you just need to love singing and have very basic skills. Lots of people sang in high school and college but don’t know about community choirs. It’s great fun and you can sing along to all types of music.
The OCC held its first rehearsal in August 1998, with 40 volunteers assembled by UM music student Gabriel Statom and music department professor Martha Hitch. They held a fundraiser at the Southside Gallery, with food donated by local restaurants and music by saxophonist Ace Cannon and his band, and received a state tourism grant with a mission to bring quality classical music to a new and wider audience.
The first concert, in November 1998, was “Gloria” by Antonio Vivaldi and “Gloria” by John Rutter, conducted by Statom, with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the University of Mississippi Brass Ensemble.
“I never imagined that this band would go 20 years later,” Statom said. “I knew when we started there was a deep desire for community members to have a place to sing great music and the testimonial is to the wonderful people who love to make music together.”
This year, OCC has a new conductor and artistic director, Maestro Anthony Williams of Memphis, Tennessee. Williams is eager to take the helm and plans to expand the performance program and increase the quality and number of choir members.
“I am honored and excited to have been chosen to lead this group,” said Williams. “The leadership is great and everyone I have met is warm and engaging. They are really fun and ready to sing.
Williams, originally from Bruce, has a BA with a concentration in vocal performance from Millsaps College, a Masters of Music with a concentration in vocal pedagogy from
Memphis State University, and completed his summer studies at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Austria. He was chair of the fine arts department at Memphis University School and Christian Brothers University, and founding director of the Germantown Community Chorus. A tenor soloist with an extensive repertoire, Williams has served as director of music in several churches and as associate cantor at Temple Israel in Memphis.
The choir will also have a new accompanist this year, Debra Atkinson, from Greenwood.
“After deciding to retire at Oxford, it was important for me to stay connected to music in one way or another,” Atkinson said. “When they approached me about the possibility of accompanying this group, I was delighted because I will be able to continue working with choral musicians who love this art as much as I do.
Atkinson holds a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance, a master’s degree in music education with choral specialization from Delta State University, and a doctorate in music education with choral specialization from the University of Mississippi. She was director of choral activities and taught at the University of Mississippi for Women and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. She has served as accompanist and musical director for numerous groups including the USM Gulf Coast Civic Chorale, Center Stage Theater, Greenwood Little Theater and the Oxford Children’s Chorus.
The first fall semester concert will be held on November 9 with the University of Mississippi Choir and Orchestra in honor of Veterans Day. A second concert is scheduled for December 12, as well as a community song during the annual Christmas tree lighting in the square.