HISTORY OF THE DECATUR CIVIC CHORUS
The Decatur Civic Chorus was founded in 1977 and is Decatur���s oldest performing
arts group. The vision
to establish a community chorus in Decatur began with the late Reneau
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Carrell. At that time, he traveled to Huntsville each week to sing with the Huntsville Community Chorus. Mr. Carrell talked with the Huntsville director, the late Mr. Ken Turvey, about helping Decatur establish a chorus. Mr. Turvey agreed to help and directed the new chorus until a permanent director could be appointed.
Mr. Carrell then called together a group of Decatur musicians for the purpose of organizing the Decatur Civic Chorus. In addition to Reneau, the following people were on the organization team: Edith Carr, Bob and Mavis Stephens, Jim and Ann Green, Dick and Chris Tate, Elsie Dunlap, Tonnie Vickery, Belle Livingston, Jean Wood, and Glenna Dee Jones.
Mr. Turvey was secured as the permanent director and Jane Ripper as the piano accompanist.
The first consideration was how to finance the chorus. Edith Carr applied for a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts & Humanities and received $500 ���seed” money from them. Reneau Carrell organized a committee to contact businesses and industries for donations, and singers in the chorus were also urged to solicit donations as well as to contribute themselves.
The financial campaign was successful, as was the publicity for
singers and an audience. Rehearsals began in the fall of 1977 at the newly renovated Fort Decatur (where the chorus still rehearses). Music was borrowed from Decatur High School and the First United Methodist Church in Huntsville where Mr. Turvey was choirmaster.
The Premiere Concert was held at Decatur High School Auditorium on December 2, 1977. There were 76 choristers on stage, and
the concert was well attended by an appreciative audience. The program consisted of the music of Bach, Randall Thompson and Dvorak, as well as selections from Carousel, which was to be DCC���s second musical production in 1979. The concert opened with Ron Nelson���s Fanfare, a stirring short composition that opened each of the DCC���s concerts for several years.
The following summer, 1979, the Decatur Civic Chorus produced its first
musical, SHOW BOAT. It
was directed by Margaret Bacon who was assisted by Betty Rocha and the late Carol Holland. It was financed, in part, by a grant from Decatur Parks & Recreation Board, and held on the mammoth Spirit of America stage at Point Mallard. There was no admission charge, but contributions were accepted. The audience brought lawn chairs and enjoyed a first-class performance with minor inconveniences from the heat and mosquitoes. In later years, the weather and primitive stage facilities caused a decision to move to the Princess Theatre, as well as moving the performances to the springtime.
Ken Turvey served as the director of the Decatur Civic Chorus until 1993. Other directors have been Randy Holmes and Linda Davidson, as well as various guest directors. Ann Butler has been the chorus����� accompanist for 30 years.
The Chorus was
organized with elected officers and a board of directors. As the chorus grew in popularity, it became apparent that the Chorus needed a “somewhat full time” person to oversee the organization. In 1986, Sue VanLandingham became the Chorus��� first Executive Director and holds that office today. She is the
official spokesperson for the Decatur Civic Chorus. The Chorus is governed by an elected Board of Directors with written Bylaws.
The Chorus has produced approximately 25 musicals. In 1985, Betty Rocha became the Chorus’ Resident Musical Director. Under her direction, the Chorus has produced such highly successful musicals as The Music Man, Camelot, Sound of Music, The King and I, South Pacific, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, Big River, and many others.
Today, more than a quarter of a century later, The Chorus’ main objective
is still “to provide high quality musical entertainment” to the Decatur area. The Decatur Civic Chorus is non-professional and is composed of local musicians who love to sing. The Chorus welcomes anyone interested in singing regardless of race, creed,
The 2012-13 Season will celebrate the Chorus’ 35th Anniversary. The Anniversary Concert will be “A Tapestry of American Music” and will feature selections from concerts and musicals that the Chorus has performed throughout the past 35 years. All former Chorus members, especially charter members, are extended a special invitation to sing in the Anniversary Concert. As part of the Chorus��� regular season, a Dinner Theatre was added two years ago and instantly became a success. Last year, there were two sold-out performances. Another Dinner With A Show (formerly known as Dinner Theatre) will be held in February of 2013.
From its humble beginnings to the present, The
Decatur Civic Chorus continues to be most grateful for the support it receives. The Chorus is solely supported by the community through the sale of ticket and donations.