Frisco Chorale celebrates 20 years of presenting music to our ears
By Tammy Meinershagen
11:34 am on May 21, 2014
In 1976, Ken Looney and his wife (high school sweethearts) moved to Frisco from Dallas. At the time, the population was about 1,500 residents.
“We fell in love with this town,” Looney said. “As soon as we visited, we knew we were home.”
The only thing missing was music.
In fact, there was no music in the Frisco public schools. No chorus, band, or orchestra, and certainly no community music groups.
This was particularly tough on Looney, an accountant by trade, but also an avid musician who plays piano, guitar, bass, and sings. He grew up immersed in music, learning to appreciate both “old dead German composers” as well as his personal favorites, Chuck Berry and B.B. King.
When Looney joined the church choir at First United Methodist in Frisco, he befriended a man named Don Hermonat.
That’s when things began to change.
Hermonat had a vision for bringing music to Frisco, anywhere and everywhere. Originally from Connecticut, Hermonat grew up in the Depression era and taught himself to play the piano. He spent hours practicing on his own, and Hermonat’s father finally allowed him to take piano lessons during his senior year of high school. After three full years of private lessons, Hermonat was accepted to Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., meeting his wife Jeanne on the college chapel steps of their sophomore year. Jeanne was an accomplished pianist, and the two of them shared a love of music that couldn’t be contained.
Hermonat began recruiting people for the Frisco Chorale in 1994.
“Our vision was to create a community choir that would become the Music Ambassadors of Frisco,” said Looney, who worked alongside Hermonat.
“We sang to anything that moved,” he said, laughing.
Looney still sings with the Frisco Chorale and now is board president.
Jerry Holdridge joined the Frisco Chorale in 1996. He and his wife Gloria had sung with the Dallas Opera for many years. “I’ve been singing all my life,” Holdridge said. “Singing is good for you; it gives you a better life and keeps you healthy.”
At 82, Holdridge is the oldest member of the Frisco Chorale and said he doesn’t plan to stop singing.
I visited the Frisco Chorale rehearsal on Monday night at First United Methodist in Frisco. Kendall Carter, the Music Director, is rigorously preparing them for their upcoming 20th-anniversary concert called Mostly Mozart, featuring the full Mozart Requiem.
The program also includes John Rutter’s “I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes”, two African spirituals by Moses Hogan (“I Am His Child” and “Ain’t That Good News”), and a rousing arrangement by Jack Halloran of the African spiritual “Witness” as the grand finale.
The free concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday May 31 at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (8000 Eldorado Parkway). Joining the Chorale is a talented 20-piece instrumental ensemble of graduate students from Southern Methodist University. Because the acoustics in St. Francis’ new 1,500-seat, 23,000-square-foot sanctuary are so spectacular, the musicians and vocalists will not use microphones; everything will be acoustic.
This special evening will converge both fine music with architectural magnificence. Specifically designed in the Romanesque style with vaulted ceilings, high arches, natural building materials, and breathtaking dimensions, the St. Francis sanctuary is a monumental work of art in Frisco.
“The design goal was beauty and noble simplicity, and we believe we have achieved that goal,” says Msgr. Larry Pichard, pastor of the parish.
“There is truly nothing in Frisco like it,” Carter said. “With no performing arts center in Frisco, we are thrilled to sing at St. Francis’ new sanctuary. Our concert is an opportunity for the citizenry to see and hear the beauty of what makes Frisco.”
Carter, originally from Abilene, is in his ninth year as the Frisco Chorale’s music director. With a music education degree from Hardin-Simmons and Choral Conducting from the University of North Texas, Carter has dedicated his life to bringing joy to others through song.
“Music is a language on its own. The ability to express one message as a group, to move together artistically, emotionally, and musically is rewarding on so many levels,” Carter said.
That’s one of the reasons why Frisco High School students Josh Intondi and Ervin Moore, both 17, joined the Frisco Chorale.
“Every song has its story,” Moore said, “and everyone can relate to the feeling in the music.”
Although these boys enjoy pop music and other genres, they appreciate the classical training they are receiving under Carter’s direction.
“He’s a no-nonsense director,” Intondi said of Carter. “The music is hard; we’re singing in Latin, and there’s no time to waste. We just pick up and start to work immediately. But he’s a really nice guy, too.”
Although Moore and Intondi are high schoolers, they sing side-by-side among those with performance degrees in music, teachers, homemakers, veterans, accountants, lawyers, medical professionals, retirees, restaurant managers and more. Together, the Frisco Chorale has performed at NorthPark Center, Frisco High School with the Plano Civic Chorus and the Plano Symphony, St. Andrews Methodist, St. Philips Episcopal, and the Frisco Senior Center, performing classical, Broadway, popular hits, folk songs, commissioned works, and spirituals.
Music is what binds them together in one, harmonious voice.
The Frisco Chorale is one of our city’s finest treasures, with a unique and rich history spanning two decades. You won’t want to miss hearing them sing.
To audition for the Frisco Chorale or find out concert information, visit www.Frisco Chorale.org. For a sneak peek of their upcoming concert on May 31 at St. Francis of Assisi, click here.
For a link to the original article, please click HERE.