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Community choir director seeks singers

NATCHEZ — Jerry Yonkman wants the community to lift its collective voice.

Yonkman has started a community choir and is looking for more members.

“I felt that there was an interest and kind of a need to bring the community together in a way that hasn’t been done in many years,” Yonkman said. “I wanted to offer people an avenue to be involved in music in Natchez and not just in the Festival of Music and things like that but in something permanent and ongoing that can become a real integral part of the musical and cultural community of Natchez.”

The choir meets at 7 p.m. every Tuesday at Stratton Chapel at First Presbyterian Church and is open to anyone interested in participating in an active choir, Yonkman said.

“I need a critical mass of people,” he said. “The minimum would be 24, but I’m really hoping for 30 and having it grow from there.”

The choir sings a variety of music including folk music and classical pieces. Yonkman said he wants to perform a good mix of sacred and secular music.

The choir has been rehearsing since March 2, but Yonkman said slim attendance has hindered the group’s progress.

He said the highest attendance has been approximately 15.

“I would like to see the group do two concerts a year, one in the spring and one in December, minimum,” he said. “I’d like for us to be able to perform pieces like Handel’s ‘Messiah.’

“What I’d really like is a group of about 60 and under that umbrella maybe a community children’s choir and possibly get the area high school choirs involved. The possibilities are simply limitless, but we have to grow this choir first.”

Yonkman received a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and has both a master and doctor of music degrees from Indiana University.

He was the director of choral activities at the Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho and was the music director for the Washington-Idaho Symphony Chorale and Chamber Choir.

He has also served as the director of choral activities at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., and as the conductor and music director for the Bach Chorale Singers and Orchestra in Lafayette, Ind.

“I’m not sure what needs to be done to get this going, but I’ve heard from so many people that love the idea,” he said. “This would be a great thing for (the community.)

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