Tuesday, August 30, 2016

TOP STORY >> Community choir hits high note

Leader staff writer

“The sopranos are like sprinkles on top,” chorus director Chris Cross told a group of 15 people who had gathered at the First Church of the Nazarene on JP Wright Loop Road on Sunday afternoon.

It was the third meeting of the newly formed Jacksonville Community Chorus.

Then he instructed members of the chorus who carried the low notes, or the bass section, to start in “3, 4, 1.”

Next he turned to the altos, telling them to sing, “Awake, awake,” and finally he had the sopranos add their special sprinkle of high notes.

The group was practicing a few lines from “The Awakening,” written by Joseph M. Martin and commissioned as an anthem for the 20th anniversary of the Texas Choral Directors Association.

Cross is an associate pastor at Christ Church of Central Arkansas at Maumelle and has been a high school music teacher at Jacksonville High School for five years. He said, “‘The Awakening’ is a good unifying piece. Music can change the world and bring people together.”

The Jacksonville Community Chorus, along with the Jacksonville High School choir, will be performing this piece as a tribute to the 15th anniversary of 9/11 at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 at Jacksonville Middle School at 718 Harris Road.

The concert is free and open to the public.

“The Awakening” is a fitting piece for the occasion, Cross said.


The song is also symbolic of the community choir’s edicts. Cross said one of the goals is to bring diverse members of the Jacksonville and surrounding areas together.

He said the choir welcomes everyone.

Sandra Sansing, who is helping organize the chorus, said, “We would love to have a large group. Members must be 12 years old, and mature enough and disciplined enough to make all rehearsals. They must be serious about working with music.”

For Elisha Claiborn, a sixth grader at Sylvan Hills Middle School who is singing with the soprano section, it’s a chance to sing with a real choir.

“I enjoy singing. This will make me a better singer,” and she adds, “Mr. Cross has a wonderful reputation.”

Jacksonville High School junior Yuseff Taylor was sitting next to Bob Bishop, both were singing in the bass section.

Yusseff said, “I’m pretty excited about the choir.”

Bishop has made all three rehearsals so far and said he enjoys “just being able to come together and singing.”

Collin Trice, a senior at North Little Rock High School, was also thrilled with the opportunity, saying, “Just being here and singing is great.”

Criss said it’s a great way for teenagers to sing without the academic demands often placed on kids at school, and they learn by singing with more seasoned, experienced performers.

It’s about developing talent and building relationships, Cross added.

He said, often younger kids can bring an extraordinarily youthful sound to a choir, and asked, “How many times do kids not have a chance to interact with adults (other than their parents and grandparents). That’s really cool when it happens.”


Once “The Awakening” performance is done, Cross said the community choir will not put away their songbook. Instead, Cross said, “We have plans to strengthen the structure.”

Sansing said the idea for a chorus had its seed at a Red Devils Choir reunion that was held in May.

About 150 people showed up for the event and that sparked the desire to sing outside the church, she said.

Cross said, “It started as a conversation. It is a people generated, people created grassroots effort.”

He said many people feel artistic talent is mainly south of the Arkansas River, but he wants to prove that assumption wrong.

He said he believes in the community chorus and points to the success of the River City Men’s Chorus that was founded in 2002.

The Little Rock group, now about 35 members strong, has performed in a variety of settings, including St. Peter’s Basicllica at the Vatican in Rome and the Clinton Presidential Center in downtown Little Rock, as well as in Berlin, Prague and Vienna.

With practice, dedication and talent, Jacksonville’s chorus could become as well-known as the River City Men’s Chorus.

For now, the Jacksonville Community Chorus plans to stay closer to home but is entertaining the notion of singing at FestiVille or maybe putting on a holiday show, Sansing said.

For more information about the Jacksonville Community Chorus, call Sandra Sansing at 501-791-6272 or go to Community In Unity Through Chorus Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Community-In-Unity-Chorus-176417819448030/.