Just more than 15 years ago, a group of 35 men with a shared passion for singing banded together to form what was soon named the River City Men’s Chorus.
In a vibrant, local arts scene that included a symphony, art museum and ballet, there was an absence of a traditional male chorus, a void the men sought to fill.
The River City Men’s Chorus is a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization with a very limited number, if any, of professional musicians. Membership, which is by audition only, has changed over the years, but the group has always sought diversity in the talent and repertoire of its singers.
David Glaze has been the chorus’ artistic director and conductor since its founding and is helping mark its 15th anniversary this season.
"Our first concert was ‘Holiday! 2002' in December of that year," Glaze says.
With two European tours under its belt, the chorus has performed at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, as well as cathedrals and concert halls in Berlin, Prague and Vienna. Closer to home, the group performed before four presidents at the rain-drenched opening of the Clinton Presidential Center.
"There are three occasions which we will never forget: One was when the chorus sang for mass at St. Peter's at the Vatican in Rome while on our tour of Italy," Glaze says. "Just being in that unbelievable space is an experience like no other, but to actually sing there is one of the most meaningful times in our chorus' history.
"Another very exciting memory was our performance at the Clinton Library dedication, and of course, the Race for the Cure — actually two different years — when we sang the national anthem."
The chorus was previously located at Trinity United Methodist Church before moving to its current location at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock.
During the 2017-2018 anniversary season, the River City Men’s Chorus has performed "From Sea to Shining Sea: A Musical Road Trip," featuring selections from across the spectrum of popular American music, and next year will perform "The Beat Goes On: A Musical Tribute to the ‘60s."
But first comes the holiday season and the chorus’ “Holiday! 2017” presentation, which includes arrangements of some of the season’s most popular carols as well as new Christmas compositions.
"We have been told by so many people that our holiday concerts are what really kicks off the season for them," Glaze says. "Obviously, there is so much non-Christmas music written that we love and perform for the fall and spring concerts, but there is just something extremely special about the music available for the holiday concerts."
All performances are free and open to the public, however the December concerts are usually standing room only, so early arrival is encouraged.
"It seems that there are some composers and arrangers who simply have a particular gift for giving ‘sparkle’ and lush treatments to some of our best-loved carols and songs of the season," Glaze says. "All of the music of the holiday concerts, both sacred and secular, seems to help us remember Christmases past and, of course, being with families and friends. I think the men of the chorus look most forward to rehearsing and performing at this great time of year."
River City Men's Chorus Annual Holiday Show
Dec. 10, 11 & 14
Second Presbyterian Church, Little Rock