A local choral group, Voce, that was established in 2002 by music and voice teacher Sandy Beam, is carrying on his tradition of excellence, and now they are under the direction of the group’s former associate director Mark Merritt.
After a recent practice session, Merritt said Voce has kept a core of people over the years and others that come and go, but the same tone of the group that was established by Beam remains. Beam passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 18 of this year.
“There’s a continuity of keeping that classic Voce sound. That’s what I stress at the beginning of any song that this is the tone we are going to work with so that we keep the same tone that our audience expects,” said Merritt.
Merritt said there are a small number of towns across the country, the size of Mount Airy that have a group that is as talented as Voce. He said the group started out with 18 or 19 members and has grown to 35 members now. He said while he misses Beam, he hopes to carry on his legacy as the new director.
“Sandy and I have always been close friends. We used to take vacations together. Of course, we spent hours and hours musically together working on things with Voce and other endeavors. I certainly miss Sandy and I really appreciate him starting this group. He certainly taught me a lot on the choral art. You can go to school and you can book learn a lot of things, but you don’t really learn until you get in front of a group. For the last nine years, I’ve been able to be in front of this group that has the capabilities to do the things you ask them to do. That is pretty amazing and that really gave me an opportunity to prepare for this,” said Merritt.
Merritt’s wife’s parents retired in Mount Airy. He said he and his wife, Ellen, made the decision a long time ago to move here.
Mark Gillespie, a member of Voce’s board of directors, said Merritt is an “incredibly talented composer,” who is married to a lyricist.
“Between the two of them, they come up with some of the most incredible compositions that I’ve ever heard and I’m a music junkie,” said Gillespie.
Voce will be presenting its annual Christmas concert entitled “Christmas Blessings,” on Dec. 10 at Central United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. The concert will feature three original songs — two written by Merritt and one by his wife. Merritt composed the music for all three entitled, “Precious Little One,” “Deo Gratias” and “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.”
The group will be accompanied at times by the Yadkin Valley Brass Ensemble and its accompanist Tony Robertson.
Also performing at the concert will be jazz legend Melva Houston. Houston will lend her jazz and blues sound to the concert. She will be performing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and Mahalia Jackson’s version of “Elijah Rock.”
Doug Reeves also will be performing during the Christmas concert. He has shared his hometown country roots worldwide, according to Gillespie. Reeves has performed with legendary country singers such as Freddie Fender. Reeves is best known for his chart topping hits, “Whoa Mule” and “Christmas in Mayberry.”
“His sense of humor, mixed with heartfelt country ballads make for an emotion packed show,” said Gillespie.
He said one of the things interesting about this concert is that the music will be coming from different directions. He said some pieces will be sung in the front of the sanctuary, some pieces will be performed from all around the sanctuary and some pieces will be from the balcony with the organ.
“With the beautiful acoustics at Central Methodist, this is going to be amazing,” said Merritt.
He said Voce will be performing a lot of fun and familiar Christmas songs at the concert.
“We are doing a lot of fun stuff for this concert. I think it’s going to be the musical event of the year that’s going to guarantee that people walk out of there in the Christmas spirit. I think that’s what everyone wants at Christmas time,” said Merritt. “There’s definitely going to be something for everyone.”
“Please join us on Dec. 10 for an afternoon of Christmas celebration. What a great way to start your holiday season,” said Gillespie.
Admission is $10.
Voce is a non-profit group that depends on private contributions. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Mark Gillespie at 789-2035 or he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.