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Community choir, chamber orchestra collaborate for the first time

By James Grob,

“Transformation” is the operative word as the Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra will collaborate for the first time with the Charles City Singers on Sunday.

“We’re largely dealing with songs that are in some way or another about transformation in different forms,” said Scott Blankenbaker, who is starting his third year as director of the Charles City Singers. “We also thought that was a good title since both groups are sort of transforming into one.”

Blankenbaker’s singers will be teaming up with the chamber orchestra, directed by Matthew McLellan, for the concert, which is scheduled for at 2 p.m. Sunday at Trinity United Methodist Church.

McLellan, newly hired this fall as high school instrumental music director at Waverly-Shell Rock, will be directing the orchestra for the first time.

“This is our first official collaboration with the Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra,” said Blankenbaker. “We have a mixture of music. They will be performing some orchestra-only pieces, we’ll be doing some choir-only pieces, but the bulk of the program will be pieces written for both choir and orchestra.”

Blankenbaker said that “Transformation” will feature a few holiday songs, favorites by Durante, Vivaldi, Lauridsen, Gjeilo and others, as well as the traditional sing-along song with the audience. There will be a reception to follow the concert, so the public can get to meet the directors and musicians from both groups.

“We’re excited to get these two groups together,” Blankenbaker said. “We’ve been talking about collaborating with different community organizations for the last couple of years. It’s been on the radar.”

Blankenbaker said the chamber orchestra is 14-16 pieces while the Charles City Singers have about three dozen voices. He said both groups have put in a lot of work leading up to the concert. The orchestra and the choir rehearsed together for the first time on Monday this week.

“We’re doing some pieces that are a little out of the comfort zone for some of them,” said Blankenbaker, who lives in Charles City and works in Austin as a music instructor at Riverland Community College. “I enjoy it. It’s different than my day job, which is directing at the college level. It’s fun.”

Bethany Rhine will be the accompanist. Tickets are available by messaging the Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra, The Charles City Singers, in person at the Charles City Arts Center, First Security Bank, First Citizens Bank, or from any Charles City Singer.