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Waco singers, stage favorites return to live performance

Waco singers, stage favorites return to live performance


Choirs and musical theater vocalists have suffered through nearly two miserable years under COVID-19 restrictions that shut down performances, shortened rehearsals and limited audiences.

Some of those restrictions are still in place, but others are relaxing as the most recent COVID-19 surge subsides and that’s good news for two organizations this weekend.

For the Central Texas Choral Society, that means its first public concert in two years. For the Waco Civic Theatre, it means a fundraiser with Broadway and stage hits that come without performance rights strings attached.

The CTCS will sing Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria” in the first half of its concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Central United Methodist Church, 5740 Bagby Ave., with a second half of assorted choral pieces. It’s the community choir’s first concert in about two years and director David Guess says it’s an achievement of sorts. “We’re getting back into the groove, but it’s been a challenge,” he said.

Guess attributed the fact that the choral society has survived despite constrained rehearsals and the absence of concerts to members’ desire to keep going. “The arts is an important thing in our lives,” he said, noting he often received emails from singers after rehearsals that said, in effect, “I needed this so bad.”

After a year of online singing and rehearsals, the CTCS voted to return to in-person singing in August, only to see a second community COVID-19 surge postpone that start until after Labor Day. Even then, attendance was spotty and fluid, with singers often sitting out when they felt ill or feared exposure to the coronavirus.

Still, the chorus picked up 12 new members this fall and will sing — barring any last-minute COVID-19 complications — with 52 members and a 15-player orchestra on Monday night.

Guess will direct the Vivaldi piece, but will turn over the baton to three conductors for the second half: Belton High School choral director Tonya Lovorn, Midway Middle School associate choir director Kayla Torp and fomer Waco Civic Chorus director Donnie Balmos. The three will conduct selections including hymn arrangements, gospel numbers and Eric Whitacre’s “Glow.”

The choir will sing with masks, slightly distanced between each other, with a similar COVID-19 protocol suggested for the audience. Guess said singing while masked isn’t optimal, but is a reality choirs must live with for the time being. “We live with a little more grace these days,” he said.

At the Waco Civic Theatre, singers led by music director Lauren Weber will stage the theater’s annual “Stars” fundraising show on Saturday night, but with a slight difference from past revues.

This year’s version has local singers performing “All Together Now!,” a revue assembled by Music Theatre International and presented to theaters across the country to use as a fundraiser, free of licensing fees.

Saturday’s “Stars” program will feature songs from such musicals as “Mary Poppins,” “Waitress,” “Into the Woods,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Oliver!,” “Little Women,” “Les Misérables,” “Once on this Island,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Rent.”

WCT executive director Eric Shephard will direct the 16-song show with an onstage band led by Brian Crowder. Weber said this year’s “Stars” will feature performers from school-age kids to grandparents with several group performances that allow them to show off harmony singing.

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