NEW PORT RICHEY
The morning sun streamed through stained-glass windows as James Urbanski sat on a tall stool and led a group of about 25 female singers through a medley of Disney classics in the empty sanctuary of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs.
One line at a time, Urbanski gently prodded members of the Thursday Musicale into an enthusiastic delivery of Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (The Magic Song) from Cinderella, as his wife, Ruth, played accompaniment on the piano.
Like all rehearsals, it was a work in progress, with more Disney tunes and a few spirituals to master before the Oct. 6 opening concert of the group's 69th season.
The singers will certainly be ready, said Urbanski, who has been director for seven years and prior to that taught music for 33 years in the Pasco County school system.
"It's a remarkable group of women," he said of the vocal group, whose members range in age from 56 to 89.
The Thursday Musicale has been a mainstay in the New Port Richey community since 1947.
Since 1993, the Tuesday morning rehearsals and the afternoon performances, held on the first Thursday of the month, have been standing dates for mezzo-soprano Mary Norton of Holiday.
"I have enjoyed it very much, and even though my voice isn't what it used to be, it is a great group," Norton said. "It was founded by women who were wanting to do for others and felt the best they could give was their voices."
The mission of the Thursday Musicale is much the same as it was when founders of the group started meeting in the home of Mrs. Donald Ross and held concerts at the historic Hacienda Hotel in downtown New Port Richey.
There's a shared love of song entwined with a desire to create "American Unity Through Music," and an altruistic undertaking that supports the dreams and futures of young musicians and vocalists. While concerts are free, the Thursday Musicale does pass the hat at each concert.
"It's amazing the crowds we get out on an afternoon," Norton said. "We are most fortunate to have a relationship with the nursing homes. They bring their buses filled with people to see our concerts. We don't charge admission. It's just whatever they wish to give toward these scholarships."
According the group's president, Linda Stuff, since 1990 the organization has given about $50,000 in scholarships — typically $3,000 to $4,000 annually — to high school graduates who plan to further their education in music. The Thursday Musicale also brings in a variety of school and community choral groups and bands to perform during their concerts.
"To foster vocal or instrumental music is a wonderful goal," said alto Peg Pagano, who came on board last year after the Pasco-Hernando State College community chorus she sang with was shuttered and now serves as the membership chairwoman.
"It's great that we can do this, because everything is so expensive when it comes to higher education these days," Pagano said. "Every little bit helps."
Contact Michele Miller at email@example.com Follow @MicheleMiller52.