Sections of the Troy Community Chorus rehearse at First United Methodist Church Jan. 29.

Sections of the Troy Community Chorus rehearse at First United Methodist Church Jan. 29.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Troy Community Chorus hits high notes, finds ‘a chord’

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 5, 2019

 The Troy Community Chorus rehearses for the spring concert.

The Troy Community Chorus rehearses for the spring concert.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Mimi Gass directs rehearsal for the Troy Community Chorus Jan. 29 at First United Methodist Church.

Mimi Gass directs rehearsal for the Troy Community Chorus Jan. 29 at First United Methodist Church.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

TROY — Clawson resident Gwen Kirby, 90, a 28-year member of the Troy Community Chorus, trekked across a frigid parking lot to the usual rehearsal venue the evening of Jan. 29 to find out she had to drive to a different location because of a scheduling problem.

She shrugged it — and the cold — off.

“This is what I do on Tuesday nights,” she said.

Kirby has been singing since she was around 10. The year before she joined the Troy Community Chorus, the chorus traveled to perform in Austria. “I thought, ‘I want to join that group.’ They have never been back, but I stuck with it.”

The Troy Community Chorus started as a program sponsored through the Troy Parks and Recreation Department 40 years ago. It is now a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization.

Auditions are not needed to join, but they are needed to perform solos or with special groups.

The group performs concerts at Athens High School at Christmastime and in the spring, and it offers a free, smaller version of the spring concert at First United Methodist Church in Troy as a thank-you for the space the church donates to the choir for practice on an as-needed basis.

 

Director marks 20 years
Mimi Gass has directed the choir for 20 years. She taught speech, drama, English and music in the Ferndale Public Schools district for 29 years and directed the choir at Shrine High School in Royal Oak for three years before she retired.

The Troy Community Chorus gained 15 new members last fall, and about 70 members performed for the Christmas concert.

Emily Lardner, of Troy, joined the group last year. She explained that the members span all ages and levels of choral experience.

Dave Weidner, of Clinton Township, serves as the vice president of the chorus. He has sung with the choir for 17 years. He heard about the choir from a woman at his church, Bethany Lutheran Church in Roseville.

“It’s fun,” he said. “There’s camaraderie. It’s a good time.”

Troy resident Sandy Clark started singing with the choir in 1978. She took a 10-year break and came back. “I just had to sing. I’ve sung my whole life.” She sang with William DeMaria at Berkley High School and while in college at Wayne State University. She said singing is “love in your soul.”

Kit Goslin, of Rochester Hills, joined the choir last year after a coworker mentioned having to leave a party early to go to choir.

“I said, ‘What choir?’ She said, ‘Come join us.’ I signed up and never left.”

Troy residents Jonathan and Susan Lowrie started with the choir last fall.

“It’s something we enjoy doing as a couple,” Jonathan Lowrie said. “It’s a good outlet for expression.”

“Everyone was very welcoming,” Susan Lowrie said. “I’m not good at sports, and it’s like it’s (the choir) a team sport. It’s my way of being part of a team. It’s an easy rehearsal schedule.”

Mary Filippis, of Oakland Township, sang with the Troy Community Chorus, switched to a different chorus when she moved out of the area, and came back when she moved to Oakland Township.

“I don’t mind the drive,” she said. “I really enjoy this group. Mimi is a wonderful director. I like the music. It’s fun. It’s like a family. … We all love to sing.”

 

A family affair
Jason Darwood, of Madison Heights, has sung with the chorus for 13 years. He joined after he saw how much his mother, Dianne, and father, Bob, of Southfield, enjoyed singing with the choir for 17 and 18 years, respectively.

“It looked interesting,” he said. “I had been to several concerts. They had a good time.”

Darwood was a student of Gass’ in Ferndale.

Gass, of Royal Oak, first sang madrigal as a high school student at Lincoln High School in Ferndale for choir director Otto Brown. “He was strict, but he made us good. It was a pleasure to be part of something of good quality. Being a part of a beautiful sound always appealed to me.”

Gass holds a theater and music degree from Albion College and a master’s degree in education from Michigan State University.

She praised accompanist Min Sook Chung’s ability to help the singers advance in their skills. Their concerts include a mix of show tunes, old standards, and classical and current music.

The spring concert that will be held at Athens High School will feature songs from the movies “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman.”

“Everyone is on the same plane, getting to know the music,” Gass said. “They achieve a real sense of accomplishment and camaraderie and a feeling they achieved something together.”

Five of her former students sing in the chorus. “I love that,” she said.

The chorus rehearses 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays in the choir room of Athens High School,  4333 John R Road. Membership is open in January and September.

For more information about the chorus, visit troycommunitychorus.org.