Director Cherry Dunn leads Columbus Girlchoir members during a recent clinic at First United Methodist Church. The Girlchoir presents its annual Tour of Kitchens fundraiser April 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $20, available at The Columbus Arts Council’s Rosenzweig Arts Center, the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center or from Girlchoir members. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
Graycen Dunn, 11, sits on the counter in her kitchen to help Renee Perkerson of Joy's Flowers arrange larkspur for the upcoming kitchen tour. Marty Wages, of Table of Plenty, chats with tour hostess and Graycen’s step-mother, Ashli Dunn, at right, Wages plans to serve shrimp and grits and pralines at the tour April 21.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
Kiana Williams and, in the background, Guilia Hintz pay close attention to Mississippi University for Women music education major Alisa Toy, who assisted with the clinic.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
April 16, 2012 5:48:14 AM
Two kinds of kitchens are important to the Columbus Girlchoir this spring.
This first was the choir's recent Saturday clinic, a kind of "test kitchen" that helped them prepare their menus for five upcoming concerts and the 2012-2013 season. The second kind comes April 21, when three actual, top-of-the-line Columbus kitchens will make up the choir's fourth annual Kitchen Tour benefit.
"Rehearsal by vocal section and polishing our music were two big values of the clinic," said the choir's director, Cherry Dunn. Assisting at the First United Methodist Church choir room were accompanist Rachel Delk and MUW music education major Alisa Toy.
"Rachel is an excellent singer and dedicated accompanist. Alisa is a gifted choral director," Dunn said. "Having a fresh set of ears was a great help to both the senior and junior choirs." The junior choir, which starts with 9-year-old singers, had 24 at the clinic. The senior choir, for girls up to 18, had 32 members. Dunn has directed the choir since its founding in 2004.
"I know the choir sounds good," said Toy. "As that 'fresh set of ears' and eyes, I hope to help them sound better." For instance, after a run-through, she focuses the singers' attention on how to pronounce the one-syllable word "sound" carried over several notes in Henry Purcell's "Sound of Trumpet," then pondered with the choir how to sing the second syllable of "instruments." A "muddly" sound is one she works to avoid.
Eleventh-grader Kennedy Brown sings in the alto section. She made two points about the workshop.
"It gave us extra time to work on the different sections," she said. "It's hard to find that time during the regular weekly practice. There's so much to do then.
"And also, that Saturday gave us all some time to get to know each other better. We had a break and some good conversations that aren't possible in that 90-minute-practice every week."
Another clinic focal point was American composer Bob Chilcott's "Jazz Songs of Innocence," part of the May 11 annual spring concert. After auditioning, 24 members of the Columbus Girlchoir joined singers from California, Arizona and Maryland to present the world premier of this work in 2011 at the Crescent City Choral Festival in New Orleans.
Tour of kitchens
Meanwhile, next season depends in large part on those other, real kitchens on the choir's fourth annual tour. This year's benefit is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the homes of Dan and Kim Bennett, 390 Briarbend Drive; Jason and Ashli Dunn, 1580 Hickory Lane; and Trip and Bethany Hairston, 1804 Pine Knoll Drive.
The homes are close together in Cady Hills. To keep things moving smoothly, tickets are keyed to different first houses, but see all three for $20. Tickets are available at the Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center, the Tennessee Williams Home Welcome Center or from Girlchoir members.
Girlchoir boardmember Paula Howard chairs the kitchen tour this year.
"This year's tour promises to be a delightful event," she said. "The choir greatly appreciates these homeowners sharing the warmth, beauty and hospitality of their homes. Their generosity is the key to the tour, which is vital to the choir."
The singers will benefit, too, from the sale of paintings by local artists. The silent auction will be at the Dunn home.
Howard said bidding will be in person, and by telephone if a person at another house wants to call back and check the bidding.
"We are honored to help," said Ashli Dunn. "The Girlchoir is a wonderful Columbus asset, and we look forward to welcoming everyone who wants to help them grow. We are especially looking forward to hosting the auction."
Floral designs, culinary delights
Each kitchen will feature floral and catering samples as well as its unique decor. Florists for the tour are Bokay's Flowers and Gifts, Ivy Cottage and Joy's Flowers. On hand for catering ideas will be The Grill, Table of Plenty and J. Broussard's. Also, the Granite Guys will be at the Hairston home.
"We are proud to have J. Broussard's as a new restaurant this year," Howard said. "They'll join The Grill and Table of Plenty in providing some fabulous samples of their offerings.
"Bokay's is also new this year. All our florists will be showcasing their spring arrangements.
"Without all the volunteers, we just could not offer this wonderful choral training for the girls in our city," she said. "And this year's kitchens -- coffee machines, heart pine flooring, walk-in pantries: they'll give you some good ideas."
Besides the May 11 spring concert at 7:30 p.m. in the First Methodist Fletcher-Jones Building, the Columbus Girlchoir plans four other performances this spring: April 22 at First Methodist at 11 a.m.; April 27 at Columbus Middle School at 2 p.m.; April 29 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 10:30 a.m.; and May 12 at Trinity Place at 2 p.m. Throughout the year, the girls sing at schools, nursing homes, churches and civic clubs and offer the public major concerts at Christmas and in the spring.
Proceeds from the kitchen tour go toward scholarships -- five are helping choir members this year -- and toward next year's performances, especially an April 2013 concert with the Mississippi Girlchoir celebrating the re-opening of Mississippi University for Women's Poindexter Hall after renovation and a summer trip to a major choral festival like the one in New Orleans.
Said the choir's board president, Jim Mauldin, "Besides helping the festival trips and the scholarships, our kitchen-tour sales help us meet the recurring expenses of sheet music, advertising and printing.
"All in all, the kitchen tour is an enjoyable way to move toward a serious goal," he said. "And that is: keeping the Columbus Girlchoir open to all by auditions. Over the years, we have seen these singers grow in poise and confidence as they give us the great gift of their talent and the training they get from Cherry Dunn."
HOW TO JOIN THE GIRLCHOIR
Girlchoir membership is open to girls 9-18 years old through auditions twice a year. The next auditions are 4 to 5 p.m. May 14 in the choir room of First United Methodist Church. The entrance is off Sixth Street between Main and College Streets in Columbus.
The weekly practices stress technique, choral style, vocal health and music fundamentals.
Interested families can reach Cherry Dunn at 574-1517.
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