CHAMPAIGN — What began in Mahomet in 1983 as a small chorus that came together to perform holiday music has developed into an experienced group of 80 dedicated singers: The Chorale.
Ginny Munich, one of two original members still singing with the group, remembers how surprised the first Chorale members were when founder and director Julie Beyler had them not only sing familiar carols but also read and learn music.
Munich also remembers the rush she felt when the crowd cheered. And so the group continued and grew.
"These talented singers are like family to one another and know the power of coming together in a true ensemble to achieve the kind of sound you want to listen to," Beyler said. "It is an honor to be in front of this group making music together."
The mixed-voice choral group, whose members hail from Champaign-Urbana and surrounding towns, recently met for a retreat at Allerton Park to help kick off its 30th anniversary season.
With the theme "World in Tune," the season will open with the group's annual Celebration of Life concert Nov. 3 at which The Chorale will pay tribute to Dan Perrino, who died in August and had worked with the group over the years.
This year, for the first time, all three Chorale concerts will feature previous scholarship winners in addition to the current winners who perform in the spring concert.
The season schedule:
— Celebration of Life: Music of the Spheres, with violinist Rachel Kobylakov, now in her fourth year at Juilliard, 7 p.m. Nov. 3, Faith United Methodist Church, Champaign. Kobylakov will play the Schubert Grand Sonata for violin and piano, with Casey Robards as her accompanist.
— C-U in Urbana: Winter Around the World, with the Urbana Pops Orchestra as well as Derek Maninfior on piano, 7 p.m. Dec. 30, The Vineyard Church, Urbana.
— Young Artist Scholarship Concert: World Class, 7 p.m. May 12, Faith United. The concert will feature winners of this year's competition and three former winners.
The Chorale performs a full repertoire of choral music. The singers have worked with local celebrities such as the late William Warfield, Ian Hobson, Willie Summerville and Steve Larsen. And Mr. Perrino appeared with The Chorale as "leader of the band" — Medicare 7, 8, or 9 — and as director of the audience sing-along at The Chorale's annual New Year's Eve event.
To further hone the group's skills, Beyler has brought to town leading figures in the choral world such as Craig Jessop, Alice Parker and Rene Claussen to provide intensive workshops. And Jean Redpath, the Scottish folk singer, sang with The Chorale and then became a friend of the group.
Jessop, the former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, has worked with The Chorale four times. In return, The Chorale visited Utah, where it joined Jessop's Festival Chorus to sing at venues in Logan, Utah, and at the Pavilion in Sun Valley, Idaho.
This past summer, The Chorale made its fourth international tour, this time to Budapest, Vienna and Prague.
Beyler is an accomplished soprano who has performed with the Dubuque (Iowa) Symphony, Charleston (S.C.) Symphony and the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra. She has taught choral singing for more than 40 years and prepared choruses for nationally known composers and conductors, including the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra's Symphony Chorus.
Beyler has judged Midwest choral and solo contests, festivals and scholarship awards and is a longtime member of the C-U Symphony Orchestra's board of directors. She has been named a "Woman of Distinction" of central Illinois and most recently was nominated for the ACE lifetime achievement award.
For more information on The Chorale, including how to join, visit http://www.thechorale.org/.