Christmas Concert Is Final For Longtime Director

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Mary Ann Irvine, the Payson Choral Society's director, conducts her final Christmas concert next weekend.

After the society's Dec. 18 Christmas performance, Irvine passes the baton to a new generation of choral leadership, but that doesn't mean she's retiring from the group altogether.

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The Payson Choral Society has been performing since 1990. For the past seven years Mary Ann Irvine has directed the work. Irvine's last program as director is Dec. 18.

"I'll be back to sing," she said. "It's all the fun and a lot less work."

Irvine said she is retiring as director because she feels it's time.

"It'd be good for the society to have new direction. I'm not tired of it, I still love it," she said.

The most rewarding aspect of the work over the years has been seeing what can be brought out in the music by the members of the society.

"I love the Christmas concert because of the message it gives. The spring concert is more for fun," she said.

Irvine's final concert, as director, "Sounds of Christmas," will be presented in two performances -- 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. -- Saturday, Dec. 18 at the Payson High School auditorium. Irvine said "Alleluia," by Randall Thompson, the program's finale, is the most complicated piece the society performs.

The audiences at both performances will have a chance to get into the act too, with a sing-along featuring "Frosty, the Snowman," "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and "What Sweeter Music."

The 60-member group will be accompanied on the piano by Sarah Nordstrom Nelson. The incoming director, Daria Mason, will be performing on the flute and conducting part of the program.

Other special performances will be presented by bell ringer, Cindy Machen; soloists Stephanie Prest, Del Bohlmeyer, John Landino and Barbara Potvin; the Payson Choral Society Chamber Singers; the Men of the Choral Society; and the Women of the Choral Society.

The group's youngest singer is a teen, the oldest is Irvine's husband, who is 81. "Everyone loves singing," she said. "We have a good mix of professionals, semi- professionals and enthusiasts."

To prepare for a concert, the group practices one night a week for 16 to 18 weeks. Still, Irvine said, the members of the society have to be committed to it.

She said over the years the Payson Choral Society has grown from 45 to more than 60 members. Although the group is well-structured, she said they have a lot of fun too.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $3 for students 12 to 18. There is no charge for children 11 and younger. Purchases may be made in advance from choral society members, the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Payson Roundup and the Payson Public Library. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Proceeds are used to fund musical scholarships, presented at the annual spring concert, for middle and high school students. Irvine said the group gave $3,000 in scholarships to vocal music students last year.

The spring concert is planned for Saturday, June 4 and auditions are scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20 and Jan. 24 at the United Methodist Church, 414 N. Easy St., Payson. Rehearsals begin Jan. 31 for the June concert.

Irvine started with the society as a singer. She, Jack, and one of their five sons joined and participated in two concerts. During the same time, the director left the society, and Irvine was urged to put in her resumé. She has been the choral group's director ever since.

The couple spent 30 years in Iran, moving there in 1951 from New Jersey. They returned to the U.S. in Dec. 1979. Between 1981 and 1986, the Irvines were in Moshi, Tanzania.

Mary Ann and Jack were married April 7, 1945 and had six children, four sons: John Jr., Marc, Thomas, David and Robert; and one daughter, Catherine.

Irvine taught music in New Jersey; Teheran, Iran; Moshi, New Zealand, and served as a substitute teacher in Payson schools, as director of the Community Presbyterian Church's Chancel Choir and as the church's part-time organist.

While music has filled her life, Irvine has also made time for plenty of other hobbies: cooking, knitting, hiking, camping, carpentry, gardening, drama and reading.

The Payson Choral Society was organized in 1990 and among the members who have been with the group since it started are Rosemary Chubinski and Ruth Neigh.

Join them, along with Mary Ann Irvine and the rest of the Payson Choral Society for the "Sounds of Christmas" at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18 at the Payson High School auditorium.

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