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Some 60 members of the Grosse Pointe Community Chorus practice once a week preparing for two concerts a year. photo by Renee Landuyt.

October 11, 2012
Singing lifts the soul. For both members of the Grosse Pointe Community Chorus and their listeners, it's beautiful music. For the past 60 years, the amateurs and lovers of music have been bringing classic and traditional songs to the community. "I love the word 'community'," said Joseph Palazzolo, who is in his fourth season of conducting the local chorus. "It's a family. People getting together once a week. This is social." And the chorus is bringing its love of music to the greater community. "People coming to concerts are amazed at the songs," he said. In weekly rehearsals in the Grosse Pointe High School choir room, the chorus practices for two concerts, hopefully three as the economy rebounds. "We have such a variety — pop, Broadway, classical. There is a balance. I choose the program. When I get to rehearsal if there is a universal outcry, I say that's not gonna work. We put it in the library for the future," he said. "We have 60 members doing a variety of music. We have lots of people who do read music and lots who don't and are good at mimic. We have a mix of all kinds of abilities," Palazzolo said. "There are a varied amount of talent, age and ability," said chorus president Diane Andriotakis. "Some are experienced. Some can't read music but have an ear." In recognition of the level span, Palazzolo provides members with CDs with the play list and section parts for the coming concerts as a way to encourage members to practice outside rehearsal evenings. Due to the range of abilities, the conductor sometimes has to encourage them to expand their vocal skills beyond the norm. "You have to cajole them to what is challenging, start with stuff everybody knows but is different arrangement. We do something that is current; for example, (a song) Josh Groban has made popular. We do some standards. Haydn and Bach are challenging but not taste wise. Most people in the chorus love classical," he said. As he pushes and encourages chorus members rehearsal after rehearsal, by concert time, many have relayed to him that diffi cult piece became the favorite. John O'Brien of the City of Grosse Pointe agreed. "A Bach mass in German or Italian is a little bit hard but enough to feel good when accomplished," he said. O'Brien joined in 2004 after chatting with an acquaintance. "She said her daughter mentioned I sang," he related. "I said way back in high school. I hadn't sung in 35 or 40 years. She said I ought to consider joining. I'm not a trained musician. This community chorus is open to anyone. There are no auditions." He said he thought about it and considered it might be an enjoyable winter activity. "I sat with a group of men in the bass section. I had a good time. It's really a form of therapy. There is a physicality to it," O'Brien said. On the fl ip side, Carl Angelilli Sr. has been singing tenor 53 years. I'm originally from Italy and studied there," he said. "I've always enjoyed singing. I do solo work for the chorus. It takes a lot of energy. Tenor is difficult. There is a big range." To maintain his skill, Angelilli takes voice lessons every Thursday. "It's like any pitcher, the relief pitcher, he must warm up. I must stay on top of the music," he said. During his time with the chorus, Angelilli said he has seen seven directors, including 21 years with Richard John. "They all have their own style of music," said Angelilli, who was an electrical engineer before retirement. Another music-lover Marty Miller of Grosse Pointe Woods said she joined after hearing a Christmas concert when the community chorus partnered with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's youth arm. "In January I attended the opening rehearsal and found connections with a couple members — members whose children knew mine in the old days. And the director Palazzolo and accompanist (Ron) Pietrantoni make the rehearsals fun and the members are friendly and welcoming," she said. In the same vein, O'Brien said, "They are wonderful people It's a great way to lift yourself up." New members can join in September when the Christmas concert rehearsals begin and in January when the spring concert rehearsals begin. The dues are $40 per season and there are no auditions. Palazzolo provides CDs with the play list and section parts to encourage members to practice outside rehearsal evenings. The Christmas concert is at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, 800 Vernier, Grosse Pointe Woods. Adult tickets cost $10 and children's tickets cost $3. Proceeds pay for rental and the cost of music, which continually goes up, Andriotakis said. From the abundance of sheet music the chorus has in its library and what is available on line, Palazzolo said he chooses the Christmas concert's music during the summer and is working on the spring concert's selections this month. "The spring concert," he said, "is a little brighter concert. I love crafting a concert." He has been conducting since 1971 and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oakland Unviersity in piano performance and minors in voice and conducting. Palazzolo said it is his job to make the chorus members sound good as individuals and as a group, "I can't spend time teaching them how to read music that's where a good section leader comes in. This is fun. It's challenging, the fun and excitement is challenging to build something together, this is a Whitman sampler." Aptly described, the G r o s s e Po i n t e Community Chorus is a sample of music to life the spirits of the singers and the listeners.

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