By Melody Birkett
A group of talented singers make up the East Valley Chorale, which started in 1999 with a dozen people from three churches. It’s now made up of about 90 people from 50 churches in the Valley.
“A lot of these churches don’t have choirs anymore,” said Bruce Cochran, director of the group. “It used to be churches always had church choirs, sanctuary choirs. A lot of them have gone away from that. They have worship teams or smaller ensembles that kind of lead the service. They really don’t have choirs, so there’s not a lot of opportunity for a lot of people to participate.”
Even the church where Cochran attended moved away from a choir, and that’s when he became involved in launching the nonprofit organization dedicated to Christian chorale music.
“We just ask for donations,” Cochran said. “Some places will take an offering. People will give what they want. They don’t have to.”
Members don’t get any money. Donations help pay for music. “A typical song might cost $2, so if you have 100 people, that’s $200 just for one song,” Cochran said.
The group only sings Christian and religious songs; it stays away from pop or secular songs. “We sing at Methodist churches, Baptists, we don’t really have any specific places we do or don’t sing,” Cochran said. “Typically, folks who like the music we do, like the songs, we’ll go to their churches. We do non-denominational; we do a little bit of everything.”
The East Valley Chorale also sings at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, RV parks and the Veterans’ Center in Phoenix.
Typically, the group performs on Sunday afternoons, and sometimes on Saturdays, and concerts last about 45 minutes. On Sunday mornings, members typically are not available since they attend their own church. Concerts aren’t scheduled through the week since half the group works. However, there are rehearsals on Tuesday evenings and the public is welcome to attend.
During the holiday season, the East Valley Chorale does a couple of concerts with a 25-member orchestra. Normally, they are accompanied by pianist Eric Addis.
Terry Kerr is a soprano and joined the choir almost five years ago. She was interested in joining a Christian group and the song selection attracted her.
“I have not sung in a group like this for 20 years until I found the East Valley Chorale, so it was a fun thing to find in the Phoenix area,” she said. “It’s extremely rewarding. We all love music and have a passion for music. But this is a little bit different than being in a classical type choir. This is all basically contemporary, but mostly I’d say it’s in the genre of contemporary Christian music. So, it makes it, at least for me, more meaningful and definitely is my style and preference for music.”
The repertoire includes a range of choral styles including classical, spirituals, Southern gospel, and modern choral music.
While there are some open time slots, the group has bookings through November 2018.
“We love it,” Kerr said. “The people in the choir are very dedicated musicians… We have practice once a week and then we usually have concerts twice a month on average. Our Christmas concerts bring in the most combinations and audiences.”
The group also has six CDs it sells at concerts and online.