Friday, April 20, 2018
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Vocal ensembles give residents a way to be heard

Retirement doesn't always equal rest, at least not for James Urbanski. The former Pasco County middle and high school band director keeps himself busy waving the baton as director for three community vocal groups and the Dade City Orchestra.

That's a lot of time spent rehearsing and performing here, there and everywhere.

"My kids keep telling me, 'Dad, you're retired,' " said Urbanski, 66.

But it's not easy to hang it up when your thing is music and you have a real appreciation for the community venue.

"Most of these groups serve three functions in the community," said Urbanski, who got his taste as a student at DePaul University in Chicago playing timpani as a "ringer" in a community orchestra. "First, it's an opportunity for people to participate, to play or sing with others after college and high school. Second, it's an opportunity for the public to hear good music, and last, many groups provide scholarships for kids in the community to go on and study music in college and eventually become professionals — some internationally."

• The PHCC Community Chorus is the baby of this bunch. Now in its second season, the chorus is offered in conjunction with the Pasco-Hernando Community College Chamber Singers through the school's continuing education department. Plans for this year include a wide variety of musical literature; music of the Renaissance, serious contemporary music and lighter selections from Broadway musicals. Tentative performances include two holiday concerts and a possible program in early November featuring patriotic music. Rehearsals are from 7 to 9 p.m. each Tuesday starting Aug. 21 in room H-107 (behind the Performing Arts Center) on the West Campus, 10230 Ridge Road in New Port Richey. The chorus is funded in part by the PHCC Foundation through a grant from the Mary Ellen Grodrian Fund. Tuition is under $50 for the semester and music will be provided. Interested singers, especially tenors and basses, should contact director James Urbanski, at (727) 847-2727, ext. 6405 or email [email protected]

Suncoast Harmony Chorus: This local chapter of Sweet Adelines International has been performing barbershop harmony since 1986 and draws its membership from Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Performances include a holiday show on Dec. 2 at the Citrus County Auditorium, an annual show on Feb. 17 at Richey Suncoast Theater and smaller programs throughout the year for local organizations and nursing homes. The director is Amy Riddle, a longtime music teacher and assistant principal at Land O'Lakes High. Rehearsals are at 7 p.m. each Tuesday at Gulf High School, 5355 School Road, New Port Richey. Call Patty Ritter at (727) 505-0001.

• The Thursday Musicale starts its 65th season in Pasco County. This group of about 50 women presents six concerts a year and raises funds for scholarships awarded to high school seniors planning to further their musical studies. The director is James Urbanski. His wife, Ruth Urbanski, serves as accompanist. Concerts feature guest performers and are typically held the first Thursday of the month, October through April (excluding January) at Living Word Church, 5151 Rowan Road. Rehearsals are from 9 to 11 a.m. each Tuesday beginning Sept. 4 at the church. A social reception, open to members and those interested in joining, will be at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 28 at Living Word Church. Requirements are the ability to read music and $20 annual dues. Call Dottie Truscott at (727) 934-3647.

The Nature Coast Festival Singers is a 60-plus member chorus formed in 1994 with the intent of performing Handel's Messiah at Christmas. The group has branched out over the past 17 years, performing additional concerts and offering scholarships to musically promising youth in Hernando and the surrounding counties. Plans this year include a three-concert Christmas series with additional instrumental accompaniment and a Messiah sing-along event, with offerings going to the Wounded Warrior Project. Rehearsals are from 7 to 9 p.m. each Monday beginning Aug. 27 at Nativity Lutheran Church, 6363 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. There are no auditions. A yearly membership fee of $10 plus the cost of music is required. (No membership fee to join the Messiah event.) Call (352) 848-4484 or (352) 556-8549.

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