The Ballantyne Chorale develops community of singers

South Charlotte Weekly

(Far left) Jane Russell, one of the founding members of The Ballantyne Chorale Group. “I love to sing and I like that this group started with Hawk Ridge and has become a part of Ballantyne’s community arts,” Russell said. Crystal O’Gorman/SCW photo

The Ballantyne Chorale will perform its second annual spring concert at Pineville United Methodist Church on Saturday, May 2, from 6 to 7:15 p.m.

This year’s theme is “Night at the Movies” and incorporates a variety of pop songs from movies spanning more than 50 years on the silver screen.

Founder and Director Beverly Warkulwiz, a Ballantyne resident, looks forward to showcasing the group’s hard work to the community.

“It’s really exciting – this has been a vision of mine for quite some time and seeing it come into fruition is really exciting,” she said.

The Ballantyne Chorale officially developed in January 2014, but the idea for the group was a long-time coming, she said.

“I needed music back in my life,” said Warkulwiz.

She took a decade-long hiatus from directing after moving to Charlotte from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Warkulwiz has past experience performing with Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania’s choir and working as a music director at two Methodist churches in Pennsylvania.

While Warkulwiz was the visionary, the formation of the group also should be attributed to the three other “founding four” members – Amber Faulhaber, Julie Yakoboski and Jane Russell – she said.

Warkulwiz joined Hawk Ridge Elementary School’s first and only Parent-Teacher Choir during the 2011-12 school year. All four women were in the choir, and when Warkulwiz decided to pursue directing a community group, they were eager to join.

The four founding members each have taken on important roles in furthering the group’s success; Faulhaber is the group’s co-founder and accompanist, Yakoboski is the general manager and Russell is the rehearsal coordinator.

The group auditioned and selected 18 singers to practice and sing in its first spring performance at Light of Christ United Methodist Church on Bryant Farms Road in May 2014. The performance featured water-themed songs across several musical genres, including crowd favorites “Africa” by Toto, The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea” performed with Hawk Ridge Elementary children’s choir and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel.

Warkulwiz said the group improved this year with a mix of returning members and new voices. Members also have taken ownership of the group by recruiting new members and choreographing some selections.

“We are building this from the ground up, which adds a sense of community to the group,” she said.

Twenty-one singers, ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old and various levels of choral experience, joined together singing bass, tenor, alto and soprano levels one and two.

Returning member Margit Etzel, who lives in Ballantyne, said the group has been welcoming to her and given her a new sense of belonging.

“I moved here from Germany three years ago, and this group has been a great opportunity for me to meet, work together and have fun with others in the community,” she said.

Twenty-year-old Matt Roper joined the group this year. He said it’s been a great challenge for him to push his vocal abilities.

“In musical theater, I never sang bass. Through singing bass now, I am excited to see if there’s more I can do … didn’t know I could hit very low G notes,” Roper said.

Saturday’s performance will work to entertain and engage the audience in a new way.

The movie-themed songs will keep the crowd guessing as to which movie each song represents, because the accompanying movie titles will only be presented after each song is performed.

Warkulwiz said she hopes to hear the crowd’s response as each movie is revealed.

“It makes the performance more fun for the audience – a little bit of a game,” she said.

The group will perform in cabaret-style ensembles and together in a chorus line to songs from movie genres such as romantic comedy, drama and musical.

The performance will include special appearances by Hawk Ridge Elementary children’s choir who will sing alongside the chorale to a well-known Disney song with accompaniment by Community House Middle saxophone player Gabriel Schuhl. Warkulwiz’s daughters, Sarah, 6, and Evelyn, 13, also will perform in a duet during the show.

“We want the performance to be fun for both the performers and audience,” said Yakoboski, who lives in south Charlotte. “We certainly hope our audience grows each year and that people begin to know who we are and look forward to hearing us.”

The Ballantyne Chorale performed with Hawk Ridge Elementary children’s choir during Night of the Arts on Thursday, April 30. This was its second Night of the Arts performance with the children’s choir in two years. Warkulwiz said the chorale is grateful to have a partnership with Hawk Ridge, who also donated practice space for the group.

“We want to continue to find ways to connect with the community,” said Warkulwiz.

Beyond the annual spring show, The Ballantyne Chorale performs at events such as Pancakes with Santa at StoneCrest at Piper Glen shopping center, Christmas caroling in south Charlotte neighborhoods and performing at the Nativity Festival in Matthews.

The not-for-profit’s season runs September through May. Warkulwiz said they are always looking to expand and hold auditions at the beginning of the season and by appointment on an as-needed basis.

Visit http://www.facebook.com/theballantynechorale for more information about the group. Tickets cost $7 and children 3 years old and younger are free. Tickets can be purchased in advance at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-ballantyne-chorale-presents-night-at-the-movies-tickets-16616500400 or at the door.

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