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Group singing helps to foster lasting friendships

The Robert Dale Chorale sang on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre and will sing today in Scranton.

Lots of hot tea, occasional rest and plenty of Ricola cough drops.

That’s the strategy Kathleen Shucosky of Kingston uses as she sings her way though the Christmas season with both the Robert Dale Chorale and the St. Nicholas Church Choir.

Blessed as Northeastern Pennsylvania is with an abundance of choruses, she’s not the only vocalist who finds herself heading out to more than one rehearsal a week.

“It’s a fun night. You enjoy the practice and you see your friends,” said Ed Staab of Wilkes-Barre, who’s been singing with Choral Arts of Luzerne County on Tuesday evenings and St. Nicholas Choir on Monday and Thursday evenings.

Especially during the holiday season, the pace gets hectic – and voices can tire – but participants say it’s worthwhile because singing in harmony has a synergy that feels almost magical.

“When you’re rehearsing at home, looking at the music at the piano, it’s just your one part. “When you’re singing with a group, everyone is doing something different. It’s energizing,” Shucosky said. “I love it.”

“I’m sometimes jealous of my singers because they get to sing and I don’t,” said Steven Thomas, who directs the Robert Dale Chorale as well as student chorus groups at Wilkes University.

“I don’t get to sing with any of my choirs, and it’s something I love.”

Thomas remedies the situation by singing with The Lyric Consort, whose “A Night of Snows” concert will be Dec. 17 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Scranton.

Fortunately, it doesn’t conflict with the Chorale’s Messiah Sing-Along, scheduled for Dec. 18 at St. Luke’s, the Wilkes concert set for Friday or this weekend’s Chorale presentation, “Noel Sing We,” which debuted last night in Wilkes-Barre.

You can still catch the “Noel Sing We” concert this afternoon at 3 at St. Luke’s Church in Scranton, where, as Thomas admitted with a chuckle, you’ll find “lots of variations on the singing and the noeling.” Not every song on the program contains the word “noel,” but many do.

“I like languages,” said the director, who recently presided over a concert of Italian music. The “Noel Sing We” lyrics delve into Latin, French and archaic as well as modern English.

That can add a bit of a language lesson to rehearsals, which many singers appreciate. They may not have studied Latin in school, but now they know, for example, rex pacificus means “king of peace.”

But the best part of choral singing comes from the relationships, Shucosky said.

“You can’t sing together and not become friends,” she said. “You have relationships with the people you see from week to week. A lot of things you share from your non-musical life. There’s so much to gain from singing with a group.”

Members of the Wyoming Valley Barbershop Harmony Chorus, whose “The Secret of Christmas” concert is set for 4 p.m. Dec. 11 at St. Nicholas Church in Wilkes-Barre, want to be sure to pass their own enthusiasm for singing to a new generation.

At their concert, they’ll have young men from GAR High School sing “Silent Night” and other pieces during a program split between spiritual and secular holiday songs, from “O Come All Ye Faithful” to “Jingle Bell Rock.”

And, if all this talk of choruses makes you want to join in, you’re welcome to sing along when the Robert Dale Chorale performs Handel’s “Messiah” on Dec. 18 in Scranton.

“We have people come who have the whole thing memorized and we also have people who just want to take a stab at it,” Thomas said. “There are people who just sing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ because that’s what they know, and there are people who just come to listen.

“Any and all are welcome. That’s what makes that concert special, the interaction between the people you expect to be the performers, and the audience. We break down those borders.”

IF YOU GO

‘Noel Sing We,’ Robert Dale Chorale, 3 p.m. today, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Scranton. 586-2921.

Christmas Concert, 7 tonight, New Life Community Church, Dallas. 333-4567

‘Carols by Candlelight,’ 7 tonight, Shavertown United Methodist Church, 675-3616

Advent Concert, Catholic Choral Society, Our Lady Queen of Apostles Church, Avoca. 587-2753

Soul Searching, original Christmas music, Messiah Church, Bear Creek, 7 p.m. Dec. 10, 823-3425

‘A Christmas with Three Tenors,’ Arts YOUniverse, Wilkes-Barre, 2 p.m. Dec. 11, 328-5864.

‘A Ceremony of English Carols,’ Choral Society of Northeast Pennsylvania, 4 p.m. Dec. 11, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Scranton, 343-6707

‘The Secret of Christmas,’ Wyoming Valley Barbershop Harmony Chorus, 4 p.m. Dec. 11, St. Nicholas Church, Wilkes-Barre, 696-3385.

Holiday Concert, Orpheus Choral Society and church choirs, 7 p.m. Dec. 11, Firwood United Methodist Church, Wilkes-Barre, 8230-7721.

‘Christmas With a Twist,’ 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at Shavertown United Methodist Church, Shavertown and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at Wilkes University, 301-3231.

Messiah Sing-Along, Robert Dale Chorale and community singers, 3 p.m. Dec. 18, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Scranton. 586-3921.

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