Above: Wendy Treacher, director of the Jackson Chorale, sings a Broadway show tune in the group’s rehearsal space in Weatherwax Hall in the Jackson Symphony Orchestra building in Jackson last week.
By Julie Riddle
Three years after a worldwide crisis silenced its voices, a singing group once again welcomes one and all to help it fill Jackson spaces with soaring sound.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the century-old Jackson Chorale into a hiatus, just as the group was attracting local singers like never before, said chorale director Wendy Treacher, describing a choir’s particular vulnerability to airborne illness.
“You sit next to each other and expel air,” Treacher said last week, recalling stories of other singing groups devastated by the sickness in the early days of the pandemic.
The group’s director since 2007, Treacher grew the group from fewer than 40 participants to more than 100 before it had to shutter in 2020 and 2021.
With masks in place (“It’s terrible to wear a mask when you sing,” Treacher grimaced) and in consultation with a medical doctor on its board, the group cautiously reconvened as the pandemic receded. Last spring, songs once again rang out as the chorale performed its first concert since the onset of the pandemic.
After one year back, the chorale welcomes up to 65 or 70 members for its weekly, Tuesday evening rehearsals, Treacher said ― but she wants more.
The lifelong musician learned to love the piano at her grandmother’s side as a 2-year-old and grew up watching her mom and dad sing in the Jackson Chorale.
A church organist by the time she was 14, Treacher played in the Jackson High School orchestra, culminating in a senior year at the Interlochen Center for the Arts and, later, a music education degree she used in nearly 30 years of teaching at Jackson-area schools.
Now, that passion motivates singers of all sorts who show up week after week for chorale rehearsals because they want to sing good music and sing it well, Treacher said.
She encourages anyone to consider joining, or at least showing up for the first rehearsal of next season ― scheduled for the day after Labor Day ― for the annual “sing-in” to help newcomers decide if the group is right for them.
The group represents singers from as far away as Albion, Ann Arbor, and Adrian and represents singers of all levels.
“Some of them can sing really well,” Treacher said. “Some of them can sing. And some of them can hardly sing. But we don’t talk about that.”
Many of her group, though, are “darn close to being professional,” she said, and respond quickly and adeptly to her directing.
She only has to throw them a quick word or lifted eyebrow and “they shape up and sing right,” Treacher said with an approving nod.
In Weatherwax Hall at the Jackson Symphony Orchestra building in downtown Jackson ― where the group practices and holds its Christmas performance ― Treacher caressed the keyboard of a gleaming black grand piano and crooned lyrics from a Broadway musical, smiling as she leaned into the music she loves and wants others to love, too.
To those ready to give the group a try, she promises to help them find their place in the group and to sing with both joy and skill.
She currently has more tenors than she knows what to do with, “and they’re wonderful. So I’m not going to tell them to stay home,” Treacher said, but she hopes people with deeper voices will show up at her door.
“What we need are a few more basses, if you’ve got any hanging out that are looking for a place,” she said hopefully.
This year’s concert series will, as in years past, include a fall concert in October, the perennially sold-out Christmas concert, a cabaret featuring numbers from a Broadway musical, and a spring concert in the acoustically superior surrounds of a local church.
Treacher hopes the audiences will be packed, and the chorale will be, too.
“Everybody’s welcome, and we teach them as well as we can,” Treacher said, inviting anyone interested to sign up, show up, and sing. “We have a great time. It’s so much fun.”
For more information about the Jackson Chorale, visit jaxmichorale.org.