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Local News

Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale celebrates 30 years of making music

After singing in high school and studying music in college, Amy Raczka gave up that part of her life when she entered the workforce and became a mother.

Music became part of her life again when she joined the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale in 2000.

"I really like the diversity of the people here," the Glen Ellyn resident said. "We are different in age and ability, but we are all joined by this love of music."

Founded in January 1985, the nonprofit chorale is celebrating its 30th anniversary as a group. In honor of the anniversary, the chorale commissioned renowned composer René Clausen to write a new work.

The chorale will perform that piece, "The Cloths of Heaven," at the group's spring concert, "Of Night and Light," on May 6 and 7. The May 6 concert begins at 7:30 p.m., and the May 7 concert begins at 3 p.m.

Both concerts will be at College Church, 335 Seminary Ave., Wheaton. Clausen will attend the concerts and give a pre-concert talk at 2 p.m. May 7. Admission to the talk is free with the purchase of a concert ticket.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for seniors and students, available by calling the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale at 630-415-3066 or visiting the group's website at gewchorale.org.

Clausen has written more than 100 commissioned compositions for organizations such as The King’s Singers, Mormon Tabernacle Choir and American Choral Directors Association.

"He's a very lyrical composer," said Wheaton resident Greg Wheatley, the chorale's musical director since 1997. "He would describe his work himself as neo-romantic, at least some of it. I think we enjoyed the sort of lush choral sounds that he works with."

"The Cloths of Heaven" is a setting of a text by William Butler Yeats.

"It's just a really beautiful text that talks about dreams," Wheatley said. "And I think René did a great job of taking that text and turning it to music that depicts the text itself."

The chorale tries not to focus on one particular style or genre of music. Instead, it performs a wide variety of music, including jazz, gospel and spirituals, pop, larger works of choral music and show tunes.

"We tend to be somewhat eclectic," Wheatley said. "We try to mix it up and do the best of all worlds, rather than stay with one. We want to be of broader interest to the audience, and we also want to sing a variety of things for our own sake, so we're not all pop and we're not all Mozart. And there's good to be found in just about every style."

Directing the chorale is a job Wheatley loves.

"It's just gratifying to see 60 some people from all walks of life and various musical backgrounds pull together," he said.

The oldest member of the group is in her 80s. And despite the name of the chorale, membership is open to all adults at least 18 years old, regardless of where they live.

Auditions for the chorale are held in August and December for openings in specific voice parts. They are led by Wheatley, who will conduct a short interview and vocal evaluation and placement.

Chorale President Barry Nelson, a member since 2010, said the group strives to bring "beautiful music to the community." To that end, the group has outreach concerts at retirement and nursing homes throughout the area.

As president, Nelson said he is trying to make more people aware of the group and what it does. Raczka encouraged him to join the group.

"She's the one who talked me into auditioning," Nelson said. "We have children who are of the same age, so we've known each other for many years."

This is a busy year for the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale. The group will be performing in Spain and France in June as part of a 10-day tour.

As part of the tour, the chorale will visit Glen Ellyn's sister city, Le Bouscat, France. Proceeds from the chorale's first bingo serenade event on April 8 will help fund the trip.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., with bingo from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center, 535 Duane St. More information is available at the chorale's website.

Glen Ellyn resident Diana Visco has been with the group almost since its inception. She received a unique opportunity when she joined the group in 1989 – singing backup for country star Kenny Rogers during one of his holiday concerts at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

"They told me, 'You're just in time,''' Visco said. "'We're going to sing backup for Kenny Rogers, and you can join us.'''

Visco, who also serves on the Board of Directors for the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale, has enjoyed her time in the group, and she is looking forward to performing "The Cloths of Heaven."

"I just love to sing," Visco said. "It has been on our wish list for years to get a commissioned piece."

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