At 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, the 30-man Coles County Barbershop Chorus will present its 50th Annual Summer Show in the Dvorak Concert Hall on the Eastern Illinois University Campus in Charleston.
It will be a milestone event for the group that specializes in area community outreach. They are well known for their singing in churches, nursing homes, small and large community programs and for the philanthropic efforts that raise nearly $10,000 every year for worthy causes. Area homeless shelters and food pantries receive large sums of money from the annual Christmas and Lenten Benefit Concerts, and the Singing Valentines Program provided more than $3,000 for area high school vocal music programs this year.
The show themes over the years have been quite diverse in nature. One year, chorus members were cavemen while in other years they have been bums, clowns, cowboys, prisoners, city slickers etc. This year, they will attempt to capture the fun behind each of those concepts and they will do it with the chorus and four local Coles County quartets. One will sing, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” while others will present, “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven”, “Back in Dixie Again” and “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.”
Of special interest will be the Charleston High School boys quartet, which recently was very well received as the School Board in the "Music Man" production. They will sing “Lida Rose”, with the backing of Merion, the Librarian. The 2018 International Championship Quartet, After Hours, will highlight the show.
The chorus is made up of men from 17 different communities: Arthur, Brocton, Champaign, Charleston, Decatur, Effingham, Hindsboro, Mt. Zion, Newman, Newton, Neoga, Oakland, Paris, St. Elmo, Strasburg, Sullivan and Tuscola. They are current or retired salesman, farmers, engineers, physicians, factory workers, teachers, lawyers etc. from age 30 to 83 and the group consistently places in the top three in Illinois Chorus competition. They have won the Charles Hecking Award for each of the last 10 years as the most philanthropic chorus in Illinois.
Tim and Tom Woodall, Charleston, direct the chorus and the show narrator will be Rich Hansen, a 27-year barbershopper from Mt. Zion. He started barbershopping as an EIU student in 1992 and has become President of the Illinois District of Barbershop Singers, as well as singing in a State Champion Quartet.
A 15-minute Power Point presentation will begin at 3:45 p.m., displaying photos of the chorus and quartets over the years. The show will last about two hours. At 6:15 p.m., there will be a dinner and more singing in the University Ball Room of the EIU Student Union Building.
It is suggested tickets be purchased in advance. All chorus members have tickets and they can be purchased in Charleston at Porter Auto Body and Coldwell Banker Real Estate. In Mattoon, the Porter Auto Body business also has tickets. Show tickets are $12 and the seats are not reserved. Doors open at 3:15 p.m. For additional information, contact Gery Conlin, 217-543-2471 after 5 p.m.
Former members of the Coles County Chorus are invited to sing the final song with the chorus and barbershoppers from other chapters, ie. Bloomington, Champaign, Danville etc. are welcome to sing along.