Marvin Robertson has been passing along his love for music for decades, and for the past eight years he’s been sharing that passion as the director of the Florida Hospital Zephyrhills Chorale.
The chorale, a group of 29 singers selected through audition, shares it loves of music by presenting free local concerts.
Its next performance, Festival of Thanks, is set for Nov. 21, beginning at 5 p.m., at the East Pasco Seventh-day Adventist Church, 7329 Dairy Road in Zephyrhills.
The event will include a welcome by Randy Surber, president and chief executive officer of Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, and will have a homily on the theme of Thanksgiving, Robertson said.
The Festival of Thanks will be a 70-minute program that includes a mixture of challenging music, as well as patriotic songs and hymns, Robertson said.
The audience will be invited to sing along on the first piece, “Now, Thank We All Our God,” and to join in on the final number, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” the chorale director said.
The program also includes a piece by Aaron Copland, a widely known American composer.
One of the more challenging works on the program is a piece called “Song of Moses,” composed by Chris Medina, a choir member who works in radiology at the hospital, Robertson said.
The piece is dedicated to the memory of James Leuthauser, a former member of the chorale’s bass section, who died two years ago.
Medina said he was inspired by a Biblical verse that “speaks of a song that is sung by the people that are redeemed from the earth … It’s kind of a happy, eventful song.”
Medina has belonged to the chorale group since it began, but his association with Robertson goes back to his college days at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee. Robertson, now retired, was dean of the school of music.
Medina said he enjoys being part of the chorale. “It’s a stress reliever for me,” he said.
Being a member of the chorale is enriching, said Sue Green, a member of the group for seven years.
The group rehearses from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., on Mondays, and, after the most recent practice, Green said she is feeling more confident about the selections in the upcoming performance.
“We’re working on it, putting on the finishing points,” Green said.
The chorale offers a wonderful opportunity for people who have a passion for singing to share it with others, Green said.
“It is challenging, and it’s thrilling,” said the retired preschool teacher.
Robertson said the chorale members come from all walks of life, and range in age from 16 to nearly 80.
“It’s an interesting group,” he said, noting the chorale includes nurses, radiology techs, teachers, a real estate broker, a doctor, a chaplain, and retired U.S. Marines, among others.
Through the years, members have come from as far away as Lutz and Hudson and Lakeland, he said.
The youngest member, 16-year-old Rose Phelps, is delighted to be part of the group.
“Singing in a choir is just so helpful because I’ve learned so much about how it sounds when all of the voices come together, the basses and the tenors, and altos and sopranos. It just really trains my ear. Hearing all those parts together is really amazing,” she said.
Being a member of choir provides opportunities for growth.
“He just gives us a piece, and we have to try to sing it right off the bat,” she said.
She’s impressed by the musical ability of other members of the choir and said she’s learning, constantly.
Besides the Festival of Thanks, the chorale also performs at the Christmas Tree Lighting at the hospital campus, and at what Robertson calls a “Prelude to Easter” concert.
The Festival of Thanks begins at 5 p.m., but doors open at 4:30 p.m., and it’s a good idea to get there early, Robertson said.
“We don’t open the doors until 4:30, and there’s always a group waiting outside. We average probably 400 to 500 people. It fills the sanctuary,” he said.
Some people have been to every Thanksgiving concert, since they began giving them, Robertson said.
“They come. I notice them, because they try to sit in the same place all of the time. And, they are not members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They are people who like this type of music,” Robertson said.
The portion of the program that allows audience participation provides individual enrichment, Robertson said, “but it’s also community involvement I love to hear the people sing, because they really do sing.”
Green said the chorale is well received.
“Many people have said that it is the best-kept secret of Pasco County,” Green said. “I’m not really certain which group receives the biggest blessing, the musicians or the audience.”
Robertson said the hospital provides financial support to promote the chorale, which, in turn, supports the community through the arts.
“Health care is more than just taking care of the sick,” he said. “We’re enhancing the life of the community.”
What: Festival of Thanks, featuring several musical selections by the Florida Hospital Zephyrhills Chorale.
Where: East Pasco Seventh-day Adventist Church, 7329 Dairy Road in Zephyrhills
When: Nov. 21 at 5 p.m.
Who: The public is welcome and admission is free.
Published November 18, 2015