Madison Chorale announces concerts for holiday season

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 2, 2017

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MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Chorale — an auditioned and intergenerational group of singers who meet in Madison Heights — will celebrate Veterans Day this year with a patriotic concert. And during the run up to Christmas, the group will hold multiple holiday performances full of good cheer. 

The Veteran’s Concert will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, at the United Methodist Church of Madison Heights, 246 E. 11 Mile Road. The same venue will host a holiday performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.

There will also be an outreach program at the Village of Royal Oak Senior Living, 3442 Devon Road in Royal Oak, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, followed by a holiday performance at the First United Methodist Church of Troy, 6363 Livernois Road, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15.  

General admission to holiday and spring performances costs $12 in advance or $15 at the door. The chorale also offers family pricing for $30, which includes two parents and two children up to age 12. The outreach concerts for veterans, nursing homes and senior residences are free. 

“The chorale’s appeal is to young and old alike,” said Brenda Braidwood, an alto in the group and the board secretary. “We especially want to expose our youth to the beauty of song and its ability to lift the soul and mind, thus creating a new generation of musicians and vocalists.”

To this end, the chorale makes it a practice to involve high school-age instrumentalists who accompany the vocalists. The Veterans Day concert will feature a flutist and a trumpeter, both students from Groves High in Birmingham.   

The group also has a new director as of last fall — long-time member and music educator Vincent Halkey, taking over from former director Chancellor Wyman, who remains as chorale accompanist. 

Halkey has taught music for nearly 20 years and has conducted choral groups of all ages, beginning his own vocal performance at Lamphere High in Madison Heights, the city where he was born and raised. His talent as a tenor led him to Central Michigan University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance with a minor in theater. 

He was awarded a scholarship to the University of Akron, where he earned his master’s degree in vocal performance. He also earned a Master of Education degree from Marygrove College and completed a Master of Arts in school principalship. He is currently the vocal music instructor for Eaton Academy in Eastpointe. 

Halkey has performed with choirs at prestigious venues, including E.J. Thomas Hall and Carnegie Hall, and has also performed in classic operas such as “Tosca,” “The Mikado” and “Cosi Fan Tutte.” 

A resident of Hazel Park with a wife and five sons, Halkey has been involved with the Madison Chorale as a tenor, guest performer and instrumental accompanist since 2004. Now he is the leader of the group, preparing it for its new concert season. He has known many members for years, including several who are parents of former classmates.

“I’m committed to developing a group that serves the community. … I wholeheartedly agree with using music to uplift, heal and nurture,” Halkey said. “I’m passionate about bringing music to others, and I believe the Veteran’s Concert is a great example of that endeavor. I’m encouraged weekly when I stand in front of the choir, and I know the audience will be as well.” 

Braidwood described the new director as someone who really believes in the work at hand. 

“Vince Halkey possesses a humbleness of spirit but a grandiosity of purpose,” Braidwood said. “His desire is to see the Madison Chorale into a new era of entertainment. His attention to detail — the right sound, the right group sound — is important to him for the sake of the chorale members. He wants us to sound our best, and he has a respect for the music and the composer. 

“Vince is anxious for the group to try new things and has thus proposed the memorization of music and the application of choreography to a few of the compositions, all in order to keep the audience engaged,” she said. “He’s very approachable, friendly, and concerned for the welfare of the group and its members.”

The Madison Chorale was established in 1973 as the Madison Heights Community Chorus under the auspices of the city of Madison Heights Parks and Recreation Department, but due to shifting budget priorities the relationship dissolved, and the chorale became an independent entity, Braidwood explained. The group secured rehearsal and performance space at Wilkinson Middle School, where it continues to meet once a week today, on Tuesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m., during its seasons from September through December and January through May.

The current chorale is a mix of generations, ranging in age from 30 to 70. Among them are two of the original founding members. They come from many different local communities, including Royal Oak, Shelby Township, Clinton Township, Beverly Hills, Troy, Pleasant Ridge, Clawson, Sterling Heights, Hazel Park and, of course, Madison Heights. Currently, the group has 32 members. All are auditioned, and the group remains open to men and women of all ages. 

Auditions normally occur at the end of the first rehearsal; a private audition includes a review of musical scales and a performance of the applicant’s song of choice, or a piece chosen by the director. 

The group funds its community concerts through member dues, ticket sales, program advertisements and donations. Recently, it was awarded the Philip and Elizabeth Filmer Memorial Charitable Trust, a grant that will allow the group to purchase a portable keyboard and new sound systems for its concerts. 

For the Veterans Day performance, the group will perform musical works associated with each branch of the military, with each piece introduced by Dennis Menlen, a chorale member who is a former United States Marine. For the holiday concerts, there will be a mix of traditional songs and contemporary works, ranging from “Carol of the Bells” to John Purifoy’s “Flowers in Winter.” There will also be a choreographed performance of “Christmas Cookies,” among other songs. 

“The choir wants to convey the emotions of the music in every piece,” Halkey said. “We express joy, melancholy, sadness, cheer, excitement and intensity in every performance. Most of all, we want the audience to feel the love. The love of music, the love conveyed in the lyrics, the love we have for others — including those in the audience — and the love for our community.”

For more on the Madison Chorale, call (248) 399-5953 or visit www.madisonchorale.org.