BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Listening to their rehearsal from a nearby hallway made me wonder if I was about to see a Broadway musical. The talented voices that make up the Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus are that good.
And this day they were rehearsing a program of Rogers & Hammerstein music. So I stood in the hallway and listened as these golden voices in perfect pitch and harmony, sang favorites like :There Is Nothin' Like A Dame," "Bali Hai," and "Some Enchanted Evening."
The Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus, under the direction of Marjorie Blocker, was formed in 1926 to entertain and uplift groups around the community, such as nursing home residents, assisted living facilities, Alzheimer's centers, church groups and more.
Made up entirely of volunteers, these men and women meet every Monday year-round and perform over 40 shows throughout the year. While their performances are focused mainly around music and singing, the members will often don costumes and act out skits, either original material or from musicals.
Until the current year, funding for the Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus has come from various organizations that support the arts as well as a few corporate sponsors. However, this year those gr ants have failed to materialize due to cuts in funding for the arts. Being short of funds could force the Chorus to provide fewer performances.
Shirley Pittman was a member of the Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus for 25 years and recently had to take a temporary sabbatical for personal reasons. In her downtime Shirley wrote Hand It On a letter nominating the Chorus president, Ann Matheny, for recognition.
Shirley explained how Ann takes responsibility for confirming dates for their appearances and how she meets with contacts at each site to discuss details of upcoming shows.
Shirley also detailed how Ann takes it upon herself to store and transport sound equipment, including keyboard for venues without available pianos. In fact, in Shirley's opinion, Ann Matheny is the nerve center of the 35-member group, by doing things like keeping up with vocalists who may be out of town or ill so the director can make necessary adjustments.
Our Hand It On team was invited to one of the Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus Monday rehearsals at Broadmoor Baptist Church. Shirley had not told anyone we were coming that day so the surprise would not only be for Ann but the entire Chorus.
We met Shirley quietly in the hallway with cameras rolling. She led us around the corner and down that short hallway to the rehearsal room. And as softly as a Harley Davidson motorcycle, we interrupted the rehearsal for a quite unexpected Hand In On surprise.
Shirley quickly made her way to the center of the room and instructed recipient Ann Matheny to join her.
"Ann, you know I wouldn't crawl out of a nice warm bed for just anybody, but for you I would," Shirley said.
"For all you do and for all you've done for the Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus, I nominated you for the WAFB Hand It On program", Shirley concluded, handing three crisp $100 bills to Ann.
And for the second time in a row, our recipient Handed It On to her club.
The room erupted in applause, laughter, tears and hugs. What a tight knit group of talented, loving artists.
I stayed for more of the rehearsal and was entertained as much as had I been sitting in a theater in New York. Thank you Baton Rouge Music Club Chorus for a most enjoyable assignment. And thank you, Shirley Pittman for your thoughtful and heartfelt nomination.
To nominate someone for WAFB's Hand It On recognition, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com.