The Rim Country’s most beautiful voices are celebrating the advent of their third decade of bringing great music to their friends and neighbors.
The Payson Choral Society Christmas 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.
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 that 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 accompanists have included: Nora Foil, Herbert Richmann, Greg Larkins, Gail Gorry, Phyllis Papineau, Steven Bardin and Sarah Nordstrom Nelson.
Each year the society holds auditions for high school and middle school vocalists, who compete for scholarship funds.
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. Generally the concerts boast an average of 75 voices.
The Christmas concert for 2011, “Believe,” will have 57 Rim Country residents performing when the Payson Choral Society presents its annual Christmas concert Saturday, Dec. 17.
The program, directed by Daria Mason with accompaniment by Victoria Harris, comes to the Payson High School Auditorium at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Among the special features this year are two different duets and a quartet. Participating in the duets will be Christy Varner and Shelley Wayland and Kathleen Phillips and Ted Prince. The quartet includes Shari Cowell, Teddie Dugger, Mary Ann Gardner and Sylvia Vincent.
Concert tickets are $10 at the door for adults, and $8 sold in advance. Children and students up to age 18 are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased in advance from choral society members, the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and at the Payson Public Library.
Tickets will also be available at the door before each concert.
Proceeds from the concerts provide musical scholarships to middle school and high school students. These are awarded each year at the spring concert.
For added information, call John Landino at (928) 468-0023.