- July 8, 2020
In conjunction with its upcoming 50th anniversary, the members of the West branch Chorale will celebrate in the way they know best — with three Christmas concerts to be presented on consecutive Sundays, December 1, 8, and 15. The West Branch was founded in 1970 when a group of five Muncy musicians decided to form
In conjunction with its upcoming 50th anniversary, the members of the West branch Chorale will celebrate in the way they know best — with three Christmas concerts to be presented on consecutive Sundays, December 1, 8, and 15.
The West Branch was founded in 1970 when a group of five Muncy musicians decided to form a community singing group and placed an ad in The Muncy Luminary newspaper. The ad opened with: “Are you a singer on the concert stage or in the shower? From senior high to senior citizen, it doesn’t matter — we want you! The Muncy Valley Community Chorus invites you to sing for fun and pleasure. Sacred, secular, and popular music.”
The first practice was held on September 14, 1970. About 30 interested singers attended the first practice at the First Methodist Church on Market Street in Muncy.
Mr. Robert Ebner was the first director for this group, with Ms. Mary Mason taking over after him. Lucille Buck, a Hughesville musician, was the first accompanist. The routine for this group became two concerts in the spring and two concerts during the Christmas season. This is still true today.
After the spring concerts in 1977, director Mary Mason stepped down as director to pursue her educational goals. There were 17 members in the group at the time. The executive board elected Mrs. Jeanne Berninger as director, and she filled this position admirably until her retirement after the spring concerts in 2016.
Mrs. Joy Barto became the accompanist in 1984 and continues today.
The executive board went to work to find a replacement for Berninger. After names were submitted and an ad placed, it was time to interview and have live rehearsals with the prospects. Mrs. Shirley Smith was chosen, and their rehearsals and concerts continued. Shirley led them successfully until she tendered her resignation effective June 1, 2019.
The executive board went back again to work to find a successor. Names were submitted, and contacts made. Once again, it was time for interviews and practice rehearsals with the Chorale members. The executive board chose Mr. Brian Scott as their new director. They have been practicing and have their concert schedule for the Christmas season.
The number of singers has fluctuated over the years. They have had as few as 17 to as many as 84. There are approximately 40 singers in the Chorale at this time.
Their practices are held at the Baptist Church on Penn Street in Muncy, Monday nights from 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Members don’t just hail from the Muncy area. For the first 14 years, the name of the group was the Muncy Valley Community Chorus because most of the members came from Muncy and Hughesville. So in 1984, the name was changed to the West Branch Chorale. They have members coming from Muncy, Hughesville, Montoursville, Williamsport, Millville, Turbotville, and Sullivan County.
The West Branch Chorale has been a dedicated group of people that love to sing. Many come from area church choirs, but others come from contact with friends or neighbors.
The Chorale has sung at a host of different events. From Memorial Day ceremonies, the Muncy Valley Hospital Lawn Party, events for the Muncy Historical Society, at Indian Park in Montoursville, at Central Oak Heights in West Milton, and events in Eagles Mere just to name a few. They have also done shows at the Muncy High School with the high school chorus, with pit band and costumes and dance numbers.
The Chorale has also made trips abroad. In 1991 the group accepted an invitation by American Music Abroad to travel to Europe and perform in different churches and concert halls throughout Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and France. In June of 1995, the Chorale traveled to England, Scotland, and Wales. There was also another trip taken to California, north into Canada and back by rail.
“A lot of friendships have been made while sitting at rehearsals. The Chorale typically sing two concerts each season. They have also sung at various events locally,” Neil Winder, a member of the Chorale told Webb Weekly.
Winder said that people who attend the Christmas Classics shows can expect a nice mixture of religious and secular music that is sure to put you in the Christmas mood.
The West Branch Chorale’s upcoming concerts this Christmas season will be on December 1 at Pleasant View Wesleyan Church on Penn Street, Muncy, at 3 p.m. Then, on December 8, they will be a featured guest of the Williamsport Music Club’s Christmas Music by Candlelight. This concert will be held at the Pine Street United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. The final concert this season will be held at Faxon-Kenmar United Methodist Church in Williamsport on December 15 at 3 p.m.