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Men’s chorus hoping to attract new members

by Rachel Dickerson | January 30, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Submitted photo The Bella Vista Men's Chorus sings at its 2022 Christmas concert on Dec. 4 at Bella Vista Community Church.

The Bella Vista Men's Chorus is changing its rehearsals from Monday to Tuesday nights in hopes of attracting more members.

Director John Matthews, who has been with the group for nine years, said the chorus, which has been in existence for about 40 years, has 30 members on the roll, but in its heyday it had 75 singers.

"We sing a variety of music. Anyone can join us," he said. "It's a great group. There's no audition, no requirement except a love of singing."

The group performs three concerts a year, two of which are free, he said. The first concert of the year is in April and is a benefit concert with proceeds going to a local nonprofit organization. Two years ago proceeds went to the Bella Vista Public Library, and last year the funds were given to the Bella Vista Animal Shelter. This year the group has not yet made a decision on who the beneficiary will be, but it will be a Bella Vista charity, he said.

Performances are held at Bella Vista Community Church on Lancashire Boulevard near the library, he said. Rehearsals are at First United Methodist Church on Boyce Drive at 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday. A date has not been set for the April concert. Special guests at the concert will be the Northwest Arkansas Women's Chorus directed by Larry Zehring.

Matthews said the April concert will consist of religious music, but in the fall the group holds a major themed concert, such as a Broadway retrospective or a salute to Academy Award winners.

"We enjoy the gift of music, and we do all kinds of music," he said.

The men's chorus has also performed for many organizations such as schools, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

"We've participated in local events," Matthews said. "We just did the Veterans Day service in Bella Vista. We've done a lot of stuff. After 40 years we're changing the day of our rehearsal. We're changing it to a Tuesday night in an attempt to grow the chorus."

With the change to Tuesday night rehearsals, Matthews said the group hopes to get some members of the Bella Vista Community Band, who rehearse on Monday night, to join in.

"There are some guys who enjoy football more than anything else; Monday night football will keep them away. All the guys singing now are open to trying a different night," he said.

He added covid affected the group's membership. Before the pandemic hit, there were 38 to 40 members, and now there are 27 to 30, he said.

Matthews said he has been a musician all his life and has directed many choruses.

"I directed a women's chorus in Shreveport, La., for 27 years," he said. "I'm currently the director of music at Highlands Methodist Church. I've just loved choral music and I've loved men's voices. I was the director of a barbershop chorus in Shreveport for 15 years. I've done all kinds of stuff. I was mainly a performer. I was a professional singer for a long time. I enjoy conducting choruses. This men's chorus is a wonderful group of guys -- friendly, outgoing, welcoming. We'd love to have more singers join us."

He added the singers pay a yearly $30 fee to help with himself and the accompanist, Marilyn Lee, who has been with the organization for 23 or 24 years. Also, members pay for their uniform, which is a shirt that costs $15.

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