As the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Civic Chorale prepares for a new season of performances along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, several members reflect on the chorale’s beginning nearly two decades earlier.
Jim and Diane Miller, both retired professors from The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, have been fans of the civic chorale since it first began at the University in 1994. Although they did not start singing with the chorale during its first year, they did attend the first performance led by former director Joanne Edwards.
“We had attended Long Beach High School concerts…which at that time were directed by Joanne,” said Diane Miller. “We were blown away by the quality of the performances. When we heard that Joanne had organized an adult group at Southern Miss, we attended their first concert.”
In the year after attending the civic chorale’s first performance, Jim joined the singing group, followed by Diane the next year. When talking about the civic chorale, Diane says the couple “appreciates the opportunity to sing a wide range of great music under excellent direction with accomplished singers from a variety of backgrounds.”
In 2006, the civic chorale gained a new director, Dr. John Flanery, who has been leading the musical group ever since. Under Flanery’s direction, the civic chorale has grown over the years to feature nearly 90 singers varying in age from all across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In addition to leading the civic chorale, Flanery teaches at the University as the assistant choral director.
“The Southern Miss Gulf Coast Civic Chorale's 18th season is filled with tremendous musical challenges for the ensemble,” said Flanery. “The audience will be thrilled at every event by this musical selection and the opportunity to hear an outstanding community chorus perform with energy and passion.”
The 18th season includes a variety of performances and will kick off Oct. 4 with the Festival of Choirs – A Choir of 500, featuring singers from high schools across the coast, the local community college and Southern Miss. The civic chorale will also continue its tradition of performing beautiful holiday songs in December at both the University’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach and St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Biloxi.
The chorale’s first spring performance, “Fit for a King,” will feature regal music typically performed for grand occasions worldwide. “Fit for a King” will be performed at two concerts in April at the Gulf Park campus and St. Michael’s Catholic Church. An additional spring performance, “Rock and Roll of the 1970s,” will be held May 10 and 12 at the Gulf Park campus. To cap off their 18th season, the chorale will continue their annual Memorial Day performance at the Sounds by the Sea concert in Gulfport.
“We have learned so much and have become better singers ourselves,” said Diane Miller. “People who love to sing but are unsure of their abilities can experience the joy of expanding their skills while being part of a great group.”
The Southern Miss Gulf Coast Civic Chorale is open to all interested participants. There is no audition process and a singing background is not required for those who would like to join the chorale. Rehearsals are held Tuesdays from 7 – 9 p.m. in the Fleming Education Center auditorium at the University’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.
For more information about the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Civic Chorale, call 228.865.4573 or visit www.usm.edu/gulfcoast/gulf-coast-civic-chorale.