The Magnolia Chorale, in winter 2013. Photo courtesy of Michael Wu
The Magnolia Chorale, in winter 2013. Photo courtesy of Michael Wu

 

The Magnolia Chorale is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a special concert next week, highlighting its favorite performances over the group’s history. 

The anniversary concerts will take place on Saturday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 4, at 2 p.m. at the Magnolia Lutheran Church (2414 31st Ave. W.). Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. 

The featured songs include “Luminous Night of the Soul,” which will be accompanied by the Roosevelt High School Quartet; “Music in the Night,” a piece commissioned by the choral for its 20th anniversary; and other longtime favorites. 

The first half of the anniversary concert focuses on music that speaks to the powerful combination of music and art; the other half will showcase old favorites. In total, the group will sing about 17 songs over an hour and 20 minutes. 

A legacy

Music director Jean-Marie Kent was with the group for three years before she moved to Canada. When she returned this past year, she started directing the group again. Kent also teaches choir at Roosevelt High School and Eckstein Middle School and conducts the Seattle Girls’ Choir. 

The Magnolia Chorale began when a group of Magnolia neighbors were singing together in a local church choir and decided to continue singing outside of the church community, Kent said.

Initially, there were about 10 members; now, the roster has 53 singers but usually has between 40 and 50 performing. The group ranges from young professionals to original members who are now retired. Some have come from other countries, and all of those cultures get incorporated into the types of music they sing. 

The group performs all types of music, from well-known choral music, to jazz, pop and folk songs. During the winter, the group sings Christmas songs. The members also do community outreach concerts, from Christmas caroling, to annual concerts at Park Shore Retirement Community and Horizon House to ice cream-social sing-alongs. 

The anniversary is exciting, Kent said: “It just shows there’s a legacy for a continued length of time and people who are committed to providing music to the Magnolia community.”

Bonding through music

Magnolia Chorale board vice-president Michael Wu is younger than the choir itself. At 24, the Microsoft software engineer looked for a choir before anything else when he moved to Seattle two years ago. He sang in a glee club during college, and it was important for him to continue that part of his life in his new city. 

The Magnolia Chorale exceeded Wu’s expectations. “The people enjoy singing, and they’re really putting a lot of effort into creating the right sound,” he said. 

The setting is very casual, but when the members rehearse, they try to be as professional as possible. 

“It’s not like everyone has killer voices, but what we find is when everyone comes together, it makes such a beautiful sound,” he said. 

Wu’s involvement with the group allows him to be musical and express his emotions through his singing. It also allows him to make friends outside of the “Microsoft bubble.” 

For Kent, the choir is a way to connect and build friendships. The group also strives to perform at a high standard. 

“For me, that’s really important that they’re making that attempt to always improve,” she said. The group isn’t just showing up, but they’re trying new things, which is “powerful.” 

Audience members get to see their friends and neighbors in a different capacity. “The audience is pleasantly surprised by the quality [we’re] able to produce,” Kent said. 

Coming together

There are about 60 other choir groups in Seattle, but what makes the Magnolia Chorale special is that it has continued for so long and built up to a high-quality level, Kent said. In the future, she hopes the group can reach out and connect with those other groups around the region. 

Many of the chorale’s founders have stepped away from the board to enjoy their retirement. Wu has been spending his time updating the group’s online presence. He has started uploading the music to Sound Cloud so people can listen year-round and has been trying to do bolder music, all while continuing to serve the community. 

At this upcoming concert, though, the chorale will take a second to celebrate the past and how far they’ve come. 

For more information, visit www.magnoliachorale.org.

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