It started with a retired concert pianist wanting to create a forum to perform for an audience.
Pianist Robert Pompeo is credited with forming the Payson Choral Society in 1990. He was the group’s first director and the society’s president was Bob Muggli.
Current president John Landino is hoping to bring back past members to help celebrate the society’s anniversary at the May 8 concert.
According to the stories passed down over the years, Pompeo wanted to do just one concert for Easter 1990. But the singers — who were mostly members of church choirs in the area — implored him to do one for Christmas 1990 as well. Another spring concert followed in 1991 and a program was presented for Christmas as well. By then Pompeo’s health was failing, but he had such passion for the music and the work of the choral society, he directed the 1991 Christmas concert while connected to an IV, which he had placed in his hand so the audience couldn’t see it.
The group’s next director was Michael Farthing. It was through his connections the society was able to move from practicing in a classroom at Payson High School to the United Methodist Church.
Mari Ann Irvine followed Farthing to the director’s stand in 1997 and then the reins were handed to Daria Mason in 2005.
Orchestra members came from the Phoenix Symphony, Flagstaff, Show Low and elsewhere. The choral society and orchestras would have just two rehearsals together before presenting the concerts.
Currently concert pianist and teacher Victoria Harris accompanies the group. Past accompanist have included: Nora Foil, Herbert Richmann, Greg Larkins, Gail Gorry, Phyllis Papineau, Steven Bardin and Sarah Nordstrom Nelson. Larkins and Gorry, along with Diana Rushlow, still help with the concerts, practices and the students.
Each year the society holds auditions for high school and middle school vocalists, who compete for scholarship funds. This year there were 17 young people who auditioned.
The scholarship winners will be featured performers in the spring concert May 8. Representing the middle school, and recipients of $500 awards, will be Kayla Brown, who will sing “I Could Have Danced All Night” and Jillian Conlon, who will sing “Tomorrow.” High school students to perform will be Kit Buskirk, who will sing “Who Will Buy” and Kaitie Jones, will sing “God Help the Outcasts.” The high school students will each receive $1,000 in scholarship money.
Rosemary Chubinski was among the founding members of the Payson Choral Society and she is still singing with the group. She said when it first started there were only 24 to 28 members, now the concerts boast an average of 75 voices.
Landino hopes audience members who have been regular attendees will share some of their favorite memories about the group and its performances. That information can be sent to Landino at 1000 N. Beeline Hwy., #116, Payson, AZ 85541.
Ticket prices for the spring concert are $8 for adults, with anyone 18 and younger admitted free.
The May 8 concert, which will be presented at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., will include favorites of past directors; the men’s feature will be “There Ain’t Nothin’ Like a Dame” and the women will present “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Other selections will include patriotic songs to gospel music and musical theater pieces from “Hairspray” to “George M.”
Tickets are available from members of the Payson Choral Society, at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Payson Public Library.
The concert will be presented at the Payson High School auditorium, which will be specially decorated for the occasion.