The spirit of giving back

For the 22 members of the Charlotte Chorale, music is about more than performing – it’s about making a difference in the community.

The audition-only performing arts nonprofit will use its upcoming holiday concert to help local individuals stay warmer during the impending winter months. The concert, “Spirit of Christmas,” will take place Dec. 14, a Friday, at the McGlohon Theater, 345 N. Charlotte St. in uptown Charlotte, and concertgoers are encouraged to bring new blankets for the American Red Cross’s Charlotte chapter to be given to local individuals in need.

“Through our performances, we try to help other organizations, whether it’s collecting blankets to be donated to the American Red Cross or (other efforts),” Renee Downey, president of the Charlotte Chorale and a Matthews resident, said. “… (Our members) love to sing and present a good show, but also want to make a difference with their music.”

The theme of “Spirit of Christmas” is “celebrating 10 years of great music and giving back,” as the Charlotte Chorale celebrates its 10th anniversary. The concert will feature a variety of holiday-themed tunes organized into four segments full of diversity – something the group’s conductor, Kevin Gray, said is a key element of the Charlotte Chorale.

“For me, it’s musical diversity, so I try my very best to have something for everyone during the concert,” he said. “Not everybody likes classical music, not everybody likes pop music. Rather than catering to just one of those audiences, we kind of run the gambit – for this concert, we’re doing Vivaldi, and we’re also doing Mariah Carey.”

The first segment will feature carols from around the world, such as “Carol of the Bells” and “Ave Maria.” The singers will perform selections from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria” for their second segment, followed by a third segment featuring songs from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The fourth and final segment will include what Downey calls “upbeat, fun” holiday tunes, such as selections from “The Polar Express” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

“There’s something for everybody; we keep it interesting for the singers and interesting for the audience,” she said. “(All segments) portray the spirit of Christmas, but in different ways.”

The Charlotte Chorale performs at multiple venues throughout the year, including children’s hospitals and community fundraisers, and has helped raise money for organizations like Musical Heirs, KinderMourn and the Avon Breast Cancer Walk. The group is currently raising money to help the United Service Organization provide biscuits to 2,000 Fort Jackson soldiers coming home for the holidays through the Charlotte airport on Dec. 19 – something that’s been an annual project for the Charlotte Chorale for five years.

“We’re about three things: music, community and diversity,” said Gray, who took over as the group’s conductor in the spring. “The community part is just as important as the music.”

Find more information at www.char, and purchase tickets at To help with the “feed a soldier” project, mail checks to Charlotte Chorale, P.O. Box 471005, Charlotte, NC 28247.

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