A Joyful Noise

The Eastern Shore Choral Society gives enthusiasts the chance to celebrate music and see the world in the process.

Eastern Shore Choral Society
Photos by Chad Riley

A group of folks gathered to sing, united by a love of music, creates a strong sense of community. Started by 44 members 31 years ago, the Eastern Shore Choral Society still has that today. 

The choral society is a non-auditioned community chorus that has grown to over 100 members, from high school age to the young at heart. The only requirements to join are the ability to match pitch, a commitment to attend weekly rehearsals and an overwhelming love of singing. For all of that, you could have your life changed.

The members — mostly ordinary folks with a few voice majors sprinkled in — greatly anticipate performing in iconic St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome this month. The experience of singing in the basilica, with its Renaissance style in the papal enclave, is sure to be a life-enhancing experience in the mother church of the world. With its sacred dome ceiling, majestic architecture, St. Peter’s tomb and underground grottoes, the basilica is sure to provide the singers with an experience that will never be forgotten. These amateur singers never would have imagined having such an opportunity if it were not for the choir. Several members of the chorus had a similar experience in the summer of 2018 as they traveled to New York to perform in Carnegie Hall with other choral groups from across the country.

The Eastern Shore Choral Society is helmed by Mary Katherine Kilgore, the director of music at Saint James Episcopal, who, for the last 12 years, has lent her supportive and enthusiastic demeanor to encourage the best possible performance from each choir member. The trip will also be the final performance with Kilgore as director, a sweet farewell and a chance to make memories before she retires.

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Left to right Members of all music levels and abilities gather together to celebrate their shared interest. Choir members encounter life-changing opportunities through music, such as singing at the Vatican in May.

“Being in this choir under Mary Katherine’s leadership has provided me with many friendships and a constancy that has been great solace, particularly when I lost my husband,” says 10-year choir veteran Eleanora Mauritson. “I never took Latin in school, and now I can sing in Latin. I even sang seven languages from ‘Jubilate Deo,’ when we performed it several years ago. I got to sing in Carnegie Hall with this group, and soon, my daughter and I will join Mary Katherine on the trip to Rome. Anyone who comes to our concerts can see the absolute joy she brings to everything she does, and she just makes everything fun!”

Director and accompanist of the Eastern Shore Choral Society
Mary Katherine Kilgore, artistic director, and Joe Rambo, accompanist of the Eastern Shore Choral Society.

Just as the group was at its founding, it is still committed to bringing amazing music to audiences of all ages. The Eastern Shore Choral Society now performs two concerts a year and periodically pairs with the Baldwin Pops and the Mobile Symphony for performances. With a diverse repertoire, ranging anywhere from standard classical works such as Rutter and Handel to well-loved spirituals, American folk tunes and popular Broadway hits, the choir performances are designed to reach a wide audience. 

The members’ varying depths of knowledge, experiences and ages meld together to make beautiful music — and quite a few friends. “A friend encouraged me to join,” says Gene Garthwait, who has been with the group since 2011. “And, of course, even though the chorus was much smaller, the very friendly atmosphere was present even then. I love the family feeling of this group and I’ve been singing with choirs since high school.” It seems that love nurtured early on never leaves us.

Five-year veteran singer, Allyson Jordan, sums it up. “Sharing what I love to do with others means the most. Being a part of something we do for the community is so rewarding. Traveling to Italy with this choir is an experience that comes along once in a lifetime. We will share the language of music with people from all over the world. The language of music brings people together wherever you are and that is what the Eastern Shore Choral Society has done for me. I am proud to be a member.”

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