ALBANY -- The Albany Chorale, an all-volunteer singing group, has been making music in Southwest Georgia since 1929, surviving a Great Depression and, most recently, the Great Recession.
Now chorale officials hope to grow the organization under the leadership of new Artistic Director Dr. Marcia Hood.
The Albany Choral Club almost became an economic casualty in its infancy. Formed on the cusp of the Great Depression, the group was forced to disband by America's historic economic woes. A few years later, in reconstituted in two separate groups. According to the Albany Chorale's history section on its website, 1946 saw the creation of a "men's chorus" and a "women's chorus" followed in 1952.
The two groups performed separately until merging in 1961 to form the Albany Community Chorus. This group performed throughout the Southwest Georgia area. Thirty years later, the chorus voted to change its name to the Albany Chorale.
Chorale historian and member Pat Yost says the group, "really started in 1929. And people came from as far as Cuthbert" to sing. "That was a pretty long way to come in 1929," she added.
The separate Men's and Women's Chorus groups merged because, according to Yost, "They decided to pool their efforts and see what would happen."
Yost quipped, "They liked it so well, they kept it!"
The current incarnation of the Albany Chorale and its leadership are seeking to enhance and expand the group, as well as encourage community awareness of the Chorale. "Our main problem," says Beverly Smith, publicity chair for the Albany Chorale, "is that people just don't know about us. We want to let the public know [about the chorale]."
Chorale President Pat Gohman echoes Smith's sentiments, saying that "we want to increase size (of the group). We also want to increase our presence in the community."
The administrators of the group believe that Dr. Marcia Hood, their recently appointed director, will be the ideal person to move the group in the right direction.
Yost says that "her appointment is excellent."
"We're very excited to have her," Smith said. "She is very well known in the musical community. We're thrilled that she would take us on."
Likewise, Gohman explains that "she (Hood) was very excited and willing to take the position."
Hood is experienced in the music field. Originally hired as the director of choral activities, she is acting chairwoman of the Department of Fine Arts.
Dr. Leroy Bynum, dean of Albany State's College of Arts and Humanities, sought to hire Hood because of her "outstanding reputation and the respect she has garnered from her peers."
"(S)he's an exceptional member of the musical community," he said, who "does wonderful things with the ASU Chorale."
Deborah Loehr, executive director of the Albany Area Arts Council, is similarly impressed by Hood and believes that "Dr. Hood and the Albany Chorale are two great entities coming together! Our community is destined for many wonderful performances."
And with an undergraduate degree in piano performance, master's degrees in both music and music education, and a doctorate in choral conducting, it is understandable that Hood has credentials that make her leadership a desirable addition to the Albany Chorale.
Hood, 54, is enthusiastic about beginning her time with the Chorale. "I'm truly excited," she said." Every day I think of new things to present and new ways to get everyone involved in the music."
Before moving to Georgia, Hood was conductor of the University of Alabama chorus, as well as the University of Alabama Chamber Singers.
Hood is quick to point out that the Albany Chorale is "a self-supporting group. We rely on fundraisers. And in the past there have been small grants. There are also dues for the members. A $40 yearly due.
"We are looking to grow. We want to build numbers. I hope we can reach a hundred, maybe over the next five years."
Hood also hopes to expand the presence of the fine arts not only in Albany, but in all of Southwest Georgia. "Any time I can work in music with the members of the community," is "exciting and important," she says.
Hood has also been active with the Albany Symphony as a pianist. She believes that the Albany Chorale, in conjunction with the Albany Symphony, will be able to "present quality (musical) programming that the citizens of Southwest Georgia can enjoy."
Hood's aspirations for expansion are obvious, as she explains that members are "citizens from all walks of life."
"It's desirable for members to read music," she says, "but we do have members of all different skill levels. If you can talk, you can sing!"
Smith and Hood would like to invite all singers in the community to audition for the Albany Chorale 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Aug. 16-17 at Darton College's Humanity Building (Building F, Room 115).
For more information about auditions, visit www.albanychorale.com or contact Pat Gohman at (229) 435-2623.