Walking down Rehoboth’s Baltimore Avenue on a brisk fall evening (or a harsh winter one), music is often emanating from the various night spots on the avenue. But approaching the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, the music could very well be the swell of voices of the CAMP Rehoboth Chorus.
This fall, the 90 voices joining in song at CAMP Rehoboth will be hard at work rehearsing for their Presidents’ Day weekend concert coming in February 2019. For season 10, the chorus will present a retrospective of their first decade, calling it “Seasons of Love.” These seasons of love have led the chorus to what it is today.
CAMP Rehoboth Chorus traces its history back to 2009, when it was founded by Letters columnist Fay Jacobs as artistic director and singer/musical educator Bill McManus as musical director. Doug Yetter took the reins, combining the two positions, in 2012.
CAMP Rehoboth’s vision is to “Create a More Positive” Rehoboth by reaching out to all, and the chorus is a diverse reflection of that mission. Doug underscores the sentiment when he declares, “What I love about the chorus is that it truly represents our community. We’re straight, we’re gay, we have married couples of every flavor. The name “Rehoboth” has been translated to mean “room for all” and that’s exactly how we operate.”`
The chorus provides high-quality musical entertainment for diverse audiences throughout Delaware. This is no traditional chorus: no Brahms, no black gowns, no pearls, no tuxes. The wardrobe is more casual and the repertoire showcases popular music from various eras in a wide range of genres from jazz to contemporary rock ‘n’ roll and everything in between. The chorus presents music as a fun, shared experience for both singers and audiences. As Doug says, “We perform popular music with the hope of bringing our audiences concerts that entertain and enlighten.”
The task of putting together a musical program with many songs with a unifying theme can be daunting. It is hard work. Doug explains that the chorus’s Music Committee meets throughout the year to discuss themes for future seasons and to research music that supports those themes. Then the full chorus is offered a selection of possibilities for the next season and votes for their favorite. When the theme has been selected, Doug and the Music Committee make a list of potential songs. Then Doug gets the task of turning their research into a concert.
No easy task. Over the course of three months, Doug listens to and looks at hundreds of songs and possible arrangements, groups numbers with similar attributes, and discerns which songs can stand alone and which work best as part of a larger medley. Then he begins writing arrangements for the music and finally, works with the chorus to create the finished product: a musical experience not found anywhere else in Sussex County.
And Doug is certainly up to the task. His list of accomplishments is astounding, and his professionalism can be seen in every chorus activity. In May, he celebrated the 57th anniversary of his first piano lesson and has never looked back. He has arranged hundreds of choral and instrumental pieces over the last 49 years—from pre-shows at dinner theatres to orchestrations for long-lost Broadway shows at City Center in New York. Over the years, he has been a performer, director, producer, and/or conductor for 237 shows. Local audiences will know him as co-founder of the Clear Space Theatre Company. He has composed off-Broadway musicals, operas, and hundreds of instrumental works, and as a teacher he has coached many students who have gone on to success on Broadway, in regional theater, and on national tours.
Doug is surrounded by experienced people as well. Accompanist David Zipse is a master of the piano who plays many different styles of music. He studied classical music for years, fell in love with jazz at an early age, and grew up listening to rock ‘n’ roll, so he is tailor-made for the wide range of musical genres offered up by the chorus. David is a popular performer in local restaurants and clubs and performs at the Rehoboth Jazz Festival.
Production assistants Larry Rosen and Barry Bugg have worked in theater and choral production for many years, including stints as production managers for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC. This year, they face the prospect of staging the opening of the concert with a sense of how the chorus has grown over the years from 27 singers to the current 90-member chorus.
And finally, meet the singers themselves: They are gay and straight, younger and older, and bring a variety of musical abilities to the group They represent varied professional and cultural backgrounds, and include educators, business owners, published authors, and artists. Many volunteer their talents to the music scene in Sussex County, and also volunteer their life skills to many local organizations. They are truly a diverse group that bands together at CAMP Rehoboth for the love of music.
What brings these volunteer choristers back year after year? Patti Magee, an alto and an original member of the chorus, echoes the sentiment of many members when she says, “Blending my voice with 90 others to make a beautiful sound is an experience like no other. I leave every rehearsal feeling both energized and peaceful. I feel lucky to have this opportunity right here in my hometown.” Other members add that the whole experience is fun, that they are eager to come back every year, and that they are proud to be a part of the group’s mission.
In addition to the main concert offering each February, the CAMP Rehoboth Chorus performs free mini-concerts for local senior centers and senior living facilities. They have performed at local events, including the annual AIDS Walk, the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival, a Spring Rehoboth Beach Bandstand performance, and the annual Rehoboth Beach Christmas parade. The chorus has also performed with the Rehoboth Beach Concert Band and at The Freeman Stage.
Singers who want to become part of the chorus are encouraged to submit applications through the CAMP Rehoboth website (camprehoboth.com), or by contacting the office (302-227-5620). Due to space restrictions, the chorus is limited to 90 singers, and has already reached capacity for this coming season. This shouldn’t discourage potential new members from applying. Current members may discover conflicts and withdraw before the chorus begins rehearsals Monday nights in October, allowing new members to replace them. There is a brief audition with Doug to ensure members are placed in the correct section, but reading music is not a requirement for membership—only a desire to sing.
So save the date for the next concert, “Seasons of Love,” on February 15, 16, and 17, 2019. Tickets go fast, so don’t wait until the last minute to purchase. Share a unique experience, whether standing up to sing, or sitting back to listen. Either is a guaranteed great time!
And this fall and winter, Baltimore Avenue will be buzzing with the sound of 90 CAMP Rehoboth Chorus songbirds prepping for that concert. After a decade, they still can’t stop the beat! ▼
Music & Memory® at Milford Place
The CAMP Rehoboth Chorus and Friends Music & Memory Project recently provided the funds for the training and equipment (MP3 players, headphones, and laptop) needed to implement the program at Milford Place Assisted Living. Residents get individualized access to their favorite music using music players and headphones. The Chorus Project has funded a total of five facilities in Sussex County. Pictured hanging their Certification Plaque are, left to right, Marge LaFond, Project Committee; Dean Reid, Milford Place Executive Director; Bev Peltz, Project Committee; Vicki Blackburn, Memory Care Director; and Andrew Caruso, Life Enrichment Coordinator. ▼