MARQUETTE - Midge Waters remembers as if it was yesterday.
"I was sweeping the kitchen floor when an announcement came on the radio. I said 'that's for me.'"
The announcement was about the formation of a new organization called the Marquette Choral Society. That was 40 years ago.
The Marquette Choral Society, shown above, will celebrate the group’s 40th anniversary at its annual spring concerts.
Marquette Choral Society director Floyd Slotterback is seated at the piano while 11 of the 13 active members of the group who sang in the group’s first concert in 1971 stand behind him. From left, they are Janet Penhale, Cass Dagenais, Pauline Kiltinen, John Kiltinen, Marion Sonderegger, Sandra Balmer, Helen Koski, Marguerite Waters, Jeanne Trost, Joylyn Wahla and Alice Johnson. Unable to be in the photo were Carole Bard and Bruce Closser. Balmer, Bard, Dagenais, Penhale and Waters have sung in every single MCS concert. (Loreene Zeno Koskey photo)
"It sounded like a group I wanted to be in, so I went to the organizational meeting," Waters said. "The turnout was big ... There were about 130 people there that first night. There was a lot of interest, right from the start."
The 40th anniversary of the Marquette Choral Society will be celebrated at its annual spring concerts which have as their theme "500 Years of Sacred Music." The concerts are set for 7:30 p.m. April 28 and 3 p.m. April 29 at the Reynolds Recital Hall on the campus of Northern Michigan University.
"That the Marquette Choral Society has reached its 40th anniversary is testament of the group's dedication to the art of choral singing," said Floyd Slotterback, MCS's director since 1986. "Not many community choirs have so steadily and successfully maintained their presentation of large-scale musical works for choir. It has been a privilege to conduct such a wonderful group for over 25 years and also great fun."
- Marquette Choral Society 40th anniversary spring concert - 500 Years of Sacred Music
- 7:30 p.m. April 28 and 3 p.m. April 29
- Reynolds Recital Hall on the Northern Michigan University campus.
- Tickets are $10 for reserved seating and can be purchased from any NMU EZ Ticket outlet or at the door.
- For more information, visit the MCS website at mqtchoral.nmu.edu/index.html
Negaunee resident Waters is one of five people who has sung in every concert over the last 40 years and one of 13 who has been in the group the entire four-decade span. She has loved her time being part of MCS.
"First of all, I've learned something new from every single director we've had," Waters said. "Then you also learn about composers and arrangements. And there's the good company you're in. I have made a lot of friends through the years through choral society."
Waters said it is difficult to narrow down the top highlights through the four decades.
"There was the (Dave) Brubeck concert," she said. "And the trip to New York City that about a dozen of us made. We performed at Avery Fisher Hall and sang 'Beethoven's Ninth'. It was a week-long trip and was stupendous, even beyond the music."
The Brubeck concert was when music legend Dave Brubeck was commissioned to write a piece for the MCS's 20th anniversary and made the trip to Marquette to perform it with the group.
The trip to NYC Waters mentioned was in 1990 and has been followed by journeys to the Big Apple in 2005, 2007 and 2011 by members of the society.
The group itself was started with the impetus of NMU professor Harold Wright and then NMU president John X. Jamrich. William Dehning was the first musical director succeeded by Douglas Amman, Steven Edwards and Slotterback.
Slotterback said the Marquette Choral Society's has thrived for 40 years in part due to its unique relationship with NMU.
"The society is part of the teaching load for whoever is the choral society director," he said in an earlier interview. "So that's a benefit to the society. Because its part of the teaching load, the society doesn't have to raise money to pay its director. The fundraising can be for music and for programs. That provides a firm financial foundation. It's very helpful.
Waters is looking forward to the upcoming concerts.
"We're hitting so many ages of music," she said. "When you hear, see and perform these songs you always learn something."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org