High Country Chorale ready to lift spirits

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Singers from the Foothills and Calgary will lift their voices to the rafters in the spirit of Christmas this weekend.

The High Country Chorale is celebrating the occasion with its annual Christmas concert Songs of the Season in the Red Deer Lake United Church Dec. 17 at 2:30 p.m. The group’s more than 40 singers rehearse in the church weekly.

“The songs are going to be mostly good, lively Christmas songs and we have a real good selection,” said Dan McAvena, who has been with the chorale for 10 years.

McAvenas said a committee selects the music for the concert, which will range from the upbeat Dance with Me Santa to the soothing The Hands That First Held Mary’s Child.

“It’s a mix of everything that you could think of just because it’s not just church music, it’s fun songs,” he said. “We have lively songs and slow songs. We really get a good mix at our concerts.”

McAvena, who is also a caroller for Heritage Park from October to December, said Christmas is his favourite time to sing.

“Through music we can affect the way people feel,” he said. “I’ve seen it where you are singing Christmas songs and, especially in the old folks homes, there are people there with tears in their eyes remembering Christmases past. It can be an emotional time.”

A decade ago, McAvena joined the High Country Chorale while in search of a mixed choir with singers around his age.

“It’s a close-knit group of people who get together and all love to sing,” he said. “We enjoy each other’s company and we have our social night once a month.”

Director Kathryn Matrosovs, one of the founders of the High Country Chorale in the 1980s, said the camaraderie is one of the highlights of being part of the group.

“Camaraderie is a fundamental part of what we do,” she said. “It’s fellowship and fun through the love of music and all the benefits of music. I can’t imagine life without it.”

Matrosovs, who lives between Priddis and Bragg Creek, said the chorale consists of adults across the region ranging in age from their 40s to 80s. They range in experience from those who have never sang before to those who spent most of their lives involved in choral music.

The group performs regularly in nursing homes and long-term care, assisted living and independent living facilities, as well as at benefits, weddings, funerals and memorial services, Matrosovs said.

“We’ve had people who have not responded to physiotherapy or who have advanced dementia or depression tapping their finger,” she said. “It reaches through to people at some level.”

The benefits are also experienced by members of the chorale, Matrosovs said.

“Music, and especially singing and choral groups, is something that the medical and scientific communities are realizing is beneficial to people in many ways – physically, emotionally, mentally and socially,” she said. “You are reading, you are getting different ideas and themes and you are learning different ways of expressing these feelings that are in the music.”

Those attending this weekend’s Songs of the Season are invited to join in during some songs, Matrosovs said.

“We just hope that everyone will feel that they’re among friends,” she said. “We want to fill their hearts with music and for them to leave with a song in their hearts.”

Admission is by donation and there will be refreshments and door prizes.

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