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Charles City Singers, Chamber Orchestra prepare for concert Sunday

  • Members of the Charles City Singers, directed by Scott Blankenbaker, rehearse for Sunday’s winter concert, entitled “Season of Giving.” (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Members of the Charles City Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Matt McLellan, rehearse for Sunday’s winter concert, entitled “Season of Giving.” (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Members of the Charles City Singers, directed by Scott Blankenbaker, rehearse for Sunday’s winter concert, entitled “Season of Giving.” (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Charles City Singers Director Scott Blankenbaker, leads rehearsal Monday for Sunday’s winter concert, entitled “Season of Giving.” (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Some Charles City musicians are getting into the Christmas spirit by clearing their voices and rosining up their bows.

The Charles City Singers and the Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra members are as prepared as they can be to perform at the Charles City Winter Concert on Sunday.

“I think we are very ready,” said Scott Blankenbaker, in his fourth year as director of the Charles City Singers, who added that Monday’s rehearsal was the first time the orchestra and choir had combined. “Both ensembles have practiced on their own, but it’s a little bit of a different world when we finally get together for the first time.”

Blankenbaker’s singers will be collaborating with the chamber orchestra, conducted by Matt McLellan, for the concert. McLellan, who was hired last year as high school instrumental music director at Waverly-Shell Rock, is in his second year of directing the local chamber orchestra.

“Last year when we combined for the first time, we had a tremendous response,” said Blankenbaker, who mentioned that the audience last year was nearly standing room only at Trinity. “We’re hoping for the same thing this year.”

This Sunday, the two community volunteer groups will once again be performing some orchestra-only pieces, some choir-only pieces, and several pieces written for both choir and orchestra.

The concert, dubbed “Season of Giving,” will be presented at 2 p.m. at Trinity Methodist Church in Charles City. Bethany Otte will provide piano accompaniment. Advance tickets are available for purchase at 1st Security and 1st Citizens Banks in Charles City, the Charles City Chamber of Commerce, the Charles City Arts Center and from members of the Charles City Singers. Tickets will also be available at the door, with free admission to students K-12.

“The whole theme around this concert is giving,” Blankenbaker said. “All the songs center on the idea of gifts — some gifts that are beneficial to the world, and other sillier things, like gifts that maybe get returned at Christmas time.”

Blankenbaker, who lives in Charles City and works in Austin as a music instructor at Riverland Community College, said that “Season of Giving” will feature a wide variety of selections, including some traditional Christmas music and some pop music by Abba as well as pieces by classical composers, such as Gabriel Faure and Iowa composer Elanie Hagenberg.

The Charles City Singers, in their 45th season, typically perform two shows each year, one before Christmas and one in the spring. The Singers also collaborated with the Charles City High School choir at a concert earlier this fall.

The chamber orchestra’s season runs from September through March, with two concerts per year, one before Christmas and one near Easter Sunday. The orchestra has been active in Charles City for about seven years.

Blankenbaker said the chamber orchestra has “come miles” in the last few years. He said initially the orchestra was totally a volunteer organization of people who just wanted to get together and play, “and now they’re becoming a real musical force.”

“We have some really fine players in the orchestra,” he said. “We also have some really talented singers in there. Put the two together and it’s a great time.”

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