The Summer Singers of Atlanta are a varied group, with members of the open, no-audition-required choral ensemble ranging in age and level of choral experience.
But one thing they all have in common is a passion for singing classic masterpieces.
Founded by William Baker in 1985, this year’s Summer Singers ensemble will perform Sunday in Midtown at Grace United Methodist Church to delight fans of classical choral music.
“You get people from everywhere,” Baker said of the composition of the group. “It’s amazing the quality of the performance from year after year and that speaks of the dedication of the people that participate.”
Baker, a native Atlantan who now lives in Kansas City, said he founded the William Baker Choral Foundation to discover new singers and develop professional-quality choral ensembles that perform everything from a cappella classics and spirituals to chamber orchestra accompaniments. The foundation began with the Summer Singers of Atlanta and has grown to include seven other ensembles.
“It brings the great master works of music out of the ivory tower and makes them accessible to both participants and to the audience,” Baker said of the performances.
He said the Atlanta group has about 100 members ranging in age from 11 to 91. The group has about 10 rehearsals each season before holding only one performance.
“This year, we are focusing on the works of Franz Joseph Haydn,” Baker said. “We’ll be performing three of his works — ‘Te Deum in C,’ ‘Lord Nelson Mass’ and the orchestra will do ‘Symphony No. 9,’ which is nicknamed ‘The Fire Symphony.’”
East Cobb resident Joe Ferst participates in both the Atlanta and Cobb Summer Singers ensembles and is in his second year with the groups.
Ferst, a director with Deloitte in downtown Atlanta, a professional services advisory firm, said he’s always loved classical music but could never play an instrument.
“This is about as close as I can get to playing masterpieces,” he said. “It’s challenging and it requires hard work.”
Ferst said the ensemble includes people from all walks of life.
“The bond [we share] is just that we all love this kind of music. We all love choral works,” Ferst said. “We have some young folks, some old folks, some people that have done it for years and some people that have gone in and out over the years. It’s really just a lot of fun.”
Sarah Chodrow of Peachtree Corners said she’s been singing with the group on and off, mostly on, since 1995.
“A friend who sang with Collegium Vocale [a separate chorus in Atlanta] got me into it and I’ve pulled in other choral friends,” Chodrow said. “It’s a low-pressure and fun way to get to sing really good music that usually needs an audition. Participants are at all levels from newbies to [Atlanta Symphony Orchestra] choristers on summer break and we get to do concerts with professional singers and instrumentalists.”
Chodrow said the concerts are great, but she gets the most fun — and musical education — from working with Baker and Co-Director Lynn Swanson, who also conducts a separate ensemble in Smyrna.