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Hitting all the right notes

Highland Springs Chorus takes music to the next level

Created date

September 20th, 2010

Four years ago the Highland Springs Chorus was a small band of friends who loved to gather around the piano and make music through song. We didn t have a leader or any particular direction, says Noni Meaney, one of the chorus founders. Several of us had been friends for years, even before we moved to Highland Springs, and we just loved to sing. Today, the music of the Highland Springs Chorus is the soundtrack of the north Dallas community, resonating through the halls and common areas with unmistakable distinction. We ve gone from a group of friends who liked to sing to a choir that sounds almost professional, says Meaney, crediting the chorus director, Gene Lawrence, with the transformation. He s the best thing that ever happened to the choir.

New leadership

Lawrence, a retired junior high and high school band and choral director, moved with his wife, Margaret, to Highland Springs from Ohio in the spring of 2007. Our apartment home wasn t ready until July, so we stayed with our daughter for a few months, says Lawrence. I heard that Highland Springs had a chorus, so I came over one Saturday to sit in on a rehearsal. At that time, the chorus was singing in unison, with just a handful of people able to read music. The thing about singing in unison is that not everybody can reach all the notes, says Lawrence, who became the chorus official director in January 2008. By changing the original key, I could drop the pitch down enough for everyone to sing in unison. But Lawrence didn t stop with small improvements. His vision for the choir embodied so much more. Using familiar songs as a springboard, Lawrence wrote out simple harmony parts for the music. We needed music we could grow with, says Meaney. That s what Gene brought to the choir. Now, with established soprano, alto, tenor, and bass sections, the 40-person chorus boasts a confident, assured sound.

Standing-room only

The group gives three concerts a year, often to a full house in the community s dining room. A smaller ensemble, drawn from the larger group, frequently performs at the community s Tuesday night worship service. We sing a lot of familiar music, says Lawrence, but we try to bring out the best in it. We want the audience to hear and feel these songs the way they heard them years ago. Asked the secret to the chorus success, Lawrence is quick to share the limelight. As more people have moved to the community, we ve added some great talent to the chorus. We also have a full slate of officers who take care of scheduling, costumes, programs, and such, so I m freed up to focus on the music.

Making a joyful noise

Van Howard, who moved to Highland Springs from McKinney in September 2009, is, at first glance, a retired banker. But buried in his past is a page from American music history. Howard got his start in country music when a talent scout saw him perform at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. I went on the road with Lefty Frizzell and eventually ended up in Nashville where I sang with Ray Price at the Grand Ole Opry, he says. Howard went on to collaborate with Price on a string of hits, including Crazy Arms and Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes. Now Howard lends his deep voice to the bass section of the Highland Springs Chorus. I certainly enjoy singing, he says, and I think people enjoy listening to our concerts. We like to get out there and make a joyful noise.