Chorus Abilene, Inc. was established in 1990 as the dream of Dr. Betty Karol Wilson and 23 adult singers. Thirty-two years later, the nonprofit community choir now boasts four ensembles and more than 100 singers ranging from elementary aged students through senior citizens.
In the last two years, Chorus Abilene experienced a tremendous amount of growth, both in the number of singers and audience members. Chorus Abilene’s newest ensemble, BackBeat, was formed in January 2021 and has played a big part in reenergizing the organization by widening Chorus’ scope in repertoire, style, venue, and singer/audience diversity. BackBeat is an a cappella pop group, directed by Serayah Peters. It covers popular music from a variety of genres and decades. Their high energy performances are characterized by tight harmonies and vocal percussion.
BackBeat has become a tightly knit group in a short amount of time. Member Ky Sorley said, “BackBeat is a community where people can come together from different backgrounds and professions to create art through music and connect with other young adults in the community – people that you might not cross paths with otherwise!”
Abigail Payne, hired as executive director in 2020, believes in the adage “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and one of her main goals is to focus on greater community involvement by new collaborations, relationships, and interdisciplinary performances. In the last two years, Chorus Abilene has enjoyed collaborations with Dance Discovery Studios, YMCA, Stick Horses and Capes, Center for Contemporary Arts, Big Country Home Educators, and Abilene Youth Sports Authority.
One of the great opportunities Chorus Abilene offers its singers is the chance to travel, with the adult and youth choirs alternating tours every summer. The ensembles have performed in Hawaii, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, and the Caribbean. Classical Chorus and BackBeat members will perform in Germany and Poland in Summer 2023, and members of the Youth Choir will travel to Scotland in 2024.
Each year, Chorus Abilene hosts its biggest fundraiser and one of Abilene’s most exciting events, Abilene Idol, and this year is no exception. This local take on the national sensation gathers contestants from around the Big Country to perform alongside and in front of their neighbors. In 2020, they added a junior category for students ages 6 to 15, and it was wildly successful. Chorus is happy to announce that Abilene Idol 2023 will take place at the Historic Paramount Theatre!
Because of its longevity, Chorus Abilene has singers whose parents sang as students themselves. It is truly remarkable to see grandparents, parents, and children singing on stage together during combined concerts.
Monique Speckels, who sang with Chorus as a student and who also works as Community Outreach Coordinator for the organization, said, “I love singing in the same organization with my daughter, Charli. As a Chorus Abilene alumni, watching my daughter fall in love with choral music has been such a gift! This is something we can share and enjoy together for years to come.”
Chorus Abilene has endured and will continue to flourish, as it honors past traditions while making space for new singers, sounds, and styles.
Chorus Abilene welcomes additional singers; a simple one-on-one audition with a Chorus Abilene conductor is required. For additional information, visit www.ChorusAbilene.org.
Contributed by Chorus Abilene
Photos by Tres Cox and Brady McNeill