The Nature Coast Festival Singers have been presenting holiday and spring concerts for 18 years. Initially the purpose was to perform Handel's Messiah, but over the years, the concerts have grown to offer a diverse selection of songs.
When the group kicks off its spring concerts Sunday at Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee, audiences will be in for a treat. All of the songs are new to the choir.
"I'm excited. Every piece of music is new to the group," said Nature Coast Festival Singers president Sandy Kaliscak. "We have such a good variety, and nothing is being repeated this year. It's been a challenge, but our director (Jim Urbanski) is so fantastic."
Kaliscak said all selections are biblical, with a mixture of "calm" pieces and upbeat gospel selections, such as Let Everything That Has Breath.
The concert, which will feature about 65 voices, will include Shaw's With a Voice of Singing, as well as Psalm 100 and new renditions of The Lord Is My Shepherd and The Lord's Prayer, during which Kaliscak will perform on cello.
The concerts will also include guest performances by student scholarship winners Mariah Dixon and Nina Morales, both violinists.
Dixon won this year's Ayer Memorial Scholarship, in memory of Peter Ayer, director of the festival singers until his death in an airplane crash in 2001. Dixon, 15, will perform during Sunday's concert, playing Melodie by Gluck. She performs with the Hernando Symphony Orchestra and was one of the orchestra's 2011 Young Artist Competition winners. She also performs with the Blue Cove Ensemble of Citrus County and the Suzuki Strings Senior Orchestra.
Morales, 15, received the first Barb Reeck Scholarship, in memory of the festival singers' secretary, who died last May.
Reeck was "particularly fond of Nina Morales," said Shirley Chaisson, publicity chairwoman for the festival singers. "For that reason, Nina is receiving this scholarship."
Morales will perform Salut D'Amore by Edward Elgar at the March 25 and April 1 concerts. She has won previous scholarships from the festival singers and has performed with the group the past few years. She performs in the first violin section with the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra in Tampa and has played with numerous groups, including the Hernando Symphony Orchestra and Hernando Jazz Society.
An offering will be collected during intermission at each concert. All donations support the Ayer Endowment Fund, to provide music education scholarships for students in elementary school through college.
"We have given Nina scholarships almost every year," Chaisson said. "She is so good, such an outstanding violin player, so poised and talented for such a young woman."