Raising their voices: Philharmonic chorus, children’s choir hosting joint concert at First Christian

The question facing Diana Ray is this: How can she put into words what she normally and simply puts into music?

“There’s nothing quite like choral singing,” Ray said after musing over a proper description. “It’s a magical experience.”

The North Vernon resident will be among about 160 vocalists participating in the magical experience of a special spring choral concert, “Music From the Heart, Music For the Soul,” slated at 7:30 p.m. March 30 at First Christian Church, 531 Fifth St. in downtown Columbus. The event will feature the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic Chorus and the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir in their first joint concert in 15 years.

Ray has sung as a soprano with the chorus since shortly she arrived in Indiana in 2007 after performing for several years with the Portland Symphonic Choir in Oregon, where she previously lived.

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“It’s always so fun to sing with the kids,” Ray said. “They’re so very well trained.”

David Bowden will direct the chorus and Ruth Dwyer will direct the children’s choir. A small ensemble of organ, cello, oboe and maybe a few other instruments will provide sparse accompaniment.

Ray suggested three of the 16 tunes that the chorus will sing, including “Bogoroditse devo (Ave Maria)” by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

“They’re just so beautiful the way they wash over you,” Ray said. “The chord structures are so lush.”

Bowden, the longtime music director for the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, is excited to work with the chorus in its first featured concert in 15 years — and especially in one of his favorite venues of First Christian. He heralds the structure’s acoustics as “absolutely superb,” especially for choral work.

The program will open with “How Can I Keep from Singing?” arranged by Alice Parker. Serving as the event’s theme song, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” is a setting of a Quaker Folk Hymn that describes the irrepressible urge people have to sing in the midst of all of life’s circumstances.

Other selections include “Two Motets Op 29, Nos. 1 & 2” by Johannes Brahms, the Moses Hogan spiritual entitled “Glory, Glory to the Newborn King,” Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, the “Laughing Song” by Handel entitled “Haste Thee Nymphs,” and much more.

The Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir will take the stage on their own to perform a few select songs.

Bowden would love to see the church’s 900-seat capacity full for the event. But since the performance has not been promoted as part of the current season, he is uncertain of the turnout.

The choral director has a few favorites for the gathering, including friend Dan Forrest’s “Entreat Me Not To Leave You” from the Biblical story of Naomi and Ruth.

Dwyer loves the idea that the community will have a chance to see the children’s choir sing more than holiday music (the group normally is featured at the Philharmonic’s holiday concerts).

“After all, we sing such a wide and varied genre,” Dwyer said.

And that includes varied ethnic styles. Their portion of the concert will include a Hawaiian piece that youngsters themselves helped compose.

And the evening’s closing number will see the two ensembles together for “Hope for Resolution: A Song for Mandela and de Klerk,” an emotional South African work about the end of apartheid and a call to unity.

“When you hear young people sing, it’s uplifting in itself,” Dwyer said. “And part of that reason is because they are still innocent.”

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Who: The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic Chorus and the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir in concert with sparse musical accompaniment.

When: 7:30 p.m. March 30.

Where: First Christian Church, 531 Fifth St. in downtown Columbus.

Tickets: Specially priced at $5 and $10 and available at thecip.org (tickets cannot be sold at the venue).

Information: 812-376-2638.