Local women’s choral group still performing after 105 years

Idaho Falls

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Women of the Idaho Falls Choralaires come together at practice to sing, and to grow in their friendships with one another. | Photo courtesy Idaho Falls Choralaires

IDAHO FALLS — For more than 100 years, members of the Idaho Falls Choralaires have been singing together. Every week they walk through the doors of practice to prepare for upcoming performances, but it’s so much more than that. When they join together in one voice, their worries take a back seat as they make beautiful music together.

The nonprofit women’s choral group was started by the Idaho Falls Music Club in 1912. The Choralaries is currently comprised of 55 ladies dedicated to music and the community. Each year they put on a spring concert and a Christmas concert; they also sing at care facilities, the tree lighting at the museum, the Festival of Trees and more.

Ronda Bishop is the current president of the Choralaires and said that spreading the joy of music is infectious. It’s why when ladies join the group and tend to stay in for years and years.

“Music is the language of heaven,” Bishop said. “Everyone understands music even if they don’t understand the lyrics. It’s the universal language. It’s uplifting. We really need to be uplifted.”

She explained the group has women ranging in ages from their 20s to their 70s. The longer they sing together, the women become more than just a group of women who sing together—they become lifelong friends from all walks of life.

“It’s a mix of generations,” Bishop said. “When we all start singing, age goes out the window. We realize that we are so much alike. These ladies become friends. They fill our buckets.”

The difference in ages also creates a beautiful mix in voices that adds to the overall sound. Plus, with so many women in the group, they are able to create some amazing harmonies.

The Idaho Falls Choralaires at its concert in May. The group started in 1912 and is comprised of women from east Idaho. | Photo courtesy Idaho Falls Choralaires | Photo courtesy Idaho Falls Choralaires

“We sang a seven-part harmony last fall,” she said. “Amazing Grace, and it was a cappella. It was challenging, but it was beautiful.”

The group’s director, Lisa Humphreys, chooses the music, an important aspect of their performances.

“Lisa excels at picking music,” Bishop said. “She picks a good variety that appeals to everyone in the audience. Classic, newer, and everything in between.” The group’s accompanists are Holly Hancock and Martha Arave.

All of the singers memorize the music for each performance, which is anywhere from 12 to 24 songs. That’s a lot of songs for just a few months of practice. The group meets twice a week, though some members can only come to one practice per week.

That means members must do a lot of practicing at home for the whole group to be successful. Then at practice, they first separate into parts to practice, and then come together as a full group to make beautiful music together.

“A lot of the new members are a little overwhelmed at first. But it always works out,” Bishop said. She added that often after a performance, audience members will ask how they can join.

Those looking to join the group can watch the Choralaires’ Facebook page or contact someone in the group for audition dates. The next audition will be in January.

Another way the Choralaires gain new members is from family members of those already in the group. In fact, they have several multi-generation families of ladies in the group.

Singing with the Choralaires is all in the family for Peggy Cromwell, her daughter Bobette Carney, and her daughter Kristen Barney (as well as her daughter Rylee Barney, hula dancer) at the group’s concert in May. | Photo courtesy Kristen Barney

One such family is comprised of Peggy Cromwell, who has been singing in the group on and off for 40 years, her daughter Bobette Carney, and her daughter Kristen Barney, as well as family members Jennifer Carney, Cheryl Cline, and Kim Carney, plus Nancy Young who is the nursery leader while they practice. Clearly the music gene runs deep in this family.

“I keep singing with Choralaires because I love to sing,” Barney explained. “Going to practices helps me to improve my talent, but I do it more because it allows me to get away from day to day stresses. I am uplifted by the songs and the music that we make together. Singing is my number one stress relief.”

The Christmas concert will take place Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Hillcrest Performing Arts Center. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and go towards renting the performance hall as well as purchasing music. The spring concert will take place May 5, 2018 and the theme will be Broadway music.