The Allen Symphony Chorus is a diverse group of singers from Allen and surrounding communities dedicated to the challenge of performing works by major composers. The performances are typically with the Allen Philharmonic Orchestra, or intimate performances in our community with music from contemporary composers.
Allen Symphony Chorus
The Allen Symphony Chorus are:
Rusty King, Director
Ben Turner, Assistant Director
MJ Wright, Accompanist
Soprano: Christine Allen, Lisa Black, Cyndi Darland, Sarah Deerman, Ellen Gilbert, Sandra Leonard, Alena Oglesbee, Doris Ostroski, Alice Payn, Emily Schroeter, Ruth Swingle, Amanda Wallace
Alto: Carol Dismukes, Caran Eldridge, Tiffany Eldridge, Kathy Guttierrez, Courtney Lacey, Colleen Lenz, Patti Malone, Mary Ann Owens, Julie Preston, Tommie Randall, Marion Runyan, Kim Singleton, Sharon Swenson, Bobbe Thompson, Mary Lou Workman
Tenor: Chris Brunt, Joseph Bush, Doug Chandler, Laurie Kelley, Randy Sandifer, Laurie Sweet, Ralph Thompson
Bass: Pete Brewer, Gary Coffman, Ken Conway, Larry Collins, Joel Fisher, Ken Foley, Richard Garlington, Tom Hosack, Henry Lessner, Doug Miller, James Miller, Tom Puhala, Ben Shinn, Doug Smetzer, Dennie Swingle
If you love to sing, please don’t hesitate to join the Allen Symphony Chorus. We are recruiting voices in all vocal ranges, and have openings for all voice parts, soprano, alto, tenor and bass. You do not have to be a citizen of Allen Texas to be a member of the Allen Symphony Chorus. We look forward to having you!
Regular rehearsals are held on Monday evenings from 7:00-9:00 pm at First United Methodist Church of Allen located at 601 S. Greenville Avenue. Additional rehearsals with the orchestra are held the week of our performance dates and on the morning of the spring concert. The rehearsals are under the direction of Choral Director, Rusty King. Rusty King can be reached by calling 972-672-8140 or by submitting the Chorus Contact form. Membership dues for the season is $150.
- Audition times will be on Mondays between 6:30 and 6:55, by appointment
- Communicate your interest in auditioning by contacting the director of the chorus, Rusty King, via the Chorus Contact form. Request an audition time in the message area.
- Prepare 2 pieces ahead of time. Bring a copy for yourself, and a copy for the accompanist, to the audition
- The audition itself will include your two selections, testing your vocal range, and reviewing the chorus covenant and calendar
- Show up 15 minutes prior to your audition appointment
The Allen Symphony Chorus Takes on Washington D.C.
By Deborah Dove
The Allen Symphony Chorus is an audition group of approximately fifty singers from Allen and neighboring communities, from as far south as Dallas to as far north as Anna, who are dedicated to the challenge of performing works by major composers. The choir’s typical season, which begins in September, includes a Halloween “Haunt”-cert with the Allen Philharmonic Symphony in October, a Christmas concert, a light and fun concert in February (one year the theme was “Road Trip” and featured songs with US cities in the song titles), a springtime concert with the Allen Philharmonic, and a concert at Heritage Ranch in May. However, in June, the choir accepted an exciting new challenge—performing Durufle’s Requiem at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. under the direction of conductor Anton Armstrong, the renowned director of St. Olaf Choir, the premier a cappella choir in the United States. How did a local choir end up singing on the same stage where the National Symphony Orchestra plays, and where comedy troupes, Broadway theater groups, and music artists of all genres perform?
It all began five years ago when the group, along with the First United Methodist Church of Allen Chancel Choir, debuted at Carnegie Hall. “A couple of things happened there that helped our group get a special designation from Manhattan Concert Productions (a group that arranges and books concert performance opportunities at famous venues for musicians, collaborating partners, and music communities),” explains Rusty King, who has directed the Allen Symphony Chorus since 2010. “We came through on our promise to bring a certain number, despite us having fifty performers instead of sixty. And they (MCP) were extremely pleased with the preparation of our singers. To a singer, everyone was prepared.” As a result, the Allen Symphony Chorus received a designation as an “anchor choir,” which meant when King called MCP two year ago to schedule their next performance, he could request the location, the conductor, and piece the choir would perform. Since they had already performed at Carnegie Hall, they voted to take on the Kennedy Center.
But why Drumful’s Requiem, a notoriously difficult piece? King had been inspired by it when he heard it performed by three one-hundred-voice choirs and the Kansas City Orchestra shortly after he graduated from college. “They blew me out of the water,” he says. “Many people have never heard it before, and it is so beautiful. But,” he adds, “the Durufle requiem is not an easily accessible piece.” It is based on chant (“not the most popular music,” he laughs) and doesn’t have a 3/4 or 4/4 time, which adds a complicated rhythm to complicated pitches. At the time he heard it, he never imagined he would have the opportunity to direct it, but the Allen Symphony Chorus’s performance at the Kennedy Center’s was actually Rusty King’s third time to direct the piece.
The choral group began preparing for the performance in September of last year, and were again joined by the First United Methodist Chancel Choir as well as Suncreek United Methodist Church’s Chancel Choir. Ben Turner, the conductor at Suncreek, opened it up to other choirs interested in joining them to sing at the Kennedy Center, resulting in a group that totaled seven or eight combined choirs with a total of 148 singers, fifty-seven of them from Allen. “But we got to pick what, where and who was the conductor,” Rusty King says gleefully. “It was a really good feeling.”
The group went on a retreat in the fall of 2017 to work on the piece and then set it aside until January of 2018 while they practiced for their other performances. Although they would perform the piece in Washington DC with only an organist accompanist, in March, they performed the Requiem with an ensemble orchestra at First United Methodist Church of Allen. Not only did it give the local audience a chance to hear the piece, but it also allowed the singers who weren’t going on the trip to DC but had been part of rehearsals a chance to perform it. Additionally, MCP requires each group to submit a recording to make sure their they were on track, so this performance provided an opportunity to showcase their progress.
And their progress was significant. The challenge was there, and the choir rose to meet the challenge.
“We made amazing progress preparing for the performance at Carnegie Hall five years ago, and we just added on to that with the Kennedy Center performance,” says King. “When you keep pushing the level of performance up and up and getting better and better, you don’t go back to where you were.”
He adds that it was rewarding for the singers who put in the time to see the outstanding product at the end, as well as just having the experience. There was an even deeper sense of accomplishment because the piece was so difficult.
Finally, the performance weekend arrived, and the group headed to Washington D.C. They arrived on Friday, June 15th, and enjoyed a little sightseeing before their first rehearsal Saturday morning with Dr. Armstrong, the guest conductor. As the renowned conductor went through each of the nine movements, giving the singers notations on timing, pronunciation, breath, etc., the singers later told King they didn’t have to do much of what the conductor said, because King had already told them it all.
“It was nice to know from my point of view as the conductor that I was on a similar pace as the conductor we brought in,” says King. He adds that the Armstrong was amazing, and brought the choir up another few levels in the short time he worked with them.
Tom Hosack, an Allen Symphony Chorus member who sang at Kennedy Center, concurs. “Anton got the best out of us and took us to a higher level of musicality,” he says.
Saturday evening, they had fifth row seats to hear the National Symphony Orchestra play, and every night, they got to hear live performances at the Kennedy Center. Sunday was another practice day, and after a dress rehearsal the following afternoon, the group performed before an audience at the Kennedy Center on Monday, June 18 at 8:00 p.m., accompanied by organist Tom Trenney. The concert also included performances by a wind band and a mariachi band. Afterward, the three groups came together for a two-hour cruise on the Potomac. “It was an awesome experience,” says King.
“I have had wonderful experiences singing in many venues, under very good directors, doing a variety of music, but the Durufle was very special and even thrilling,” says Allen Symphony Chorus member Ken Foley. “I did not enjoy this piece the first few times I wrestled with it. But in time I have grown to admire it, and the experience on June 18th was magical. In short, the Durufle was an exhilarating experience for me and one I will remember for the rest of my days.”
Of course the choir, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, won’t rest on its laurels. Rusty King is already talking to Manhattan Concert Productions about the group’s next concert, which will be Mozart’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall in 2020. For information on joining the Allen Symphony Chorus, visit www.allenphilharmonic.org.
Originally published at Allen Image