By Ginger Brashinger For The Herald-News May 4, 2012 2:34PM
Charles Stark rehearses with the Lincoln-Way Area Chorale for the Spring Concert on April 29 at Lincoln-Way West High School. The performance will be Stark’s final one as director after 16 years with the volunteer choir he helped found in 1995. | Supplied Photo
Updated: May 16, 2012 11:34AM
The name Charles Stark is a symbol for all things musical to many in the Lincoln-Way area. Over the past 43 years, Stark has been not only the Lincoln-Way High School District’s choral director and music department chair, but also the conductor of the Lincoln-Way Area Chorale since 1995.
Stark’s long career is now winding down, and those who would like to attend his final concert will have the opportunity to do so on April 29 at his final Spring Concert.
“We’re calling it ‘These are a Few of my Favorite Things’ with a slash through ‘Things’ and ‘Songs’ written under it,” Stark said.
“I started with 75 songs. Then I cut it down to 35. Then I cut it some more,” he added with a broad smile.
Stark said he found it difficult to make the final cut of 17 songs because “they’re the war horses, the staple of choral music, and they can be rather demanding vocally for a volunteer choir.”
Stark explained that his “volunteer choir” may have been chosen a little differently from those in other communities.
“There’s no audition,” Stark said. “The chorale has always been open to anyone high school age and over that has an interest in singing. I have never turned anyone down.”
Still, he knows his group is up to the musical demands of his final concert as director.
He estimated about 35 percent of the group are charter members and more than 50 percent have been with him for five years or more.
Many of them are former students, some of the very people who started the whole thing.
Several former L-W high school students approached Stark in 1995 about forming an alumni choir.
Stark agreed and the group worked through the Mokena Park District for one year, breaking off after several performances to form “our own entity” and incorporating as the Lincoln-Way Area Chorale in 1997.
Stark gets a bit emotional at times when reminiscing about his long musical career in the Lincoln-Way area and the friends he has made.
He is clearly most comfortable when speaking of the talent of his students.
“Probably one of the highlights (of the choral group performances) was ‘From Here to Broadway and Back,’” Stark said.
For that performance, former students Jeff Mattsey, Mike Flanigan, and Amanda Huddleston, now highly successful professionals, appeared with the chorale.
“Having alumni back really meant a lot,” he said.
Stark said the Frankfort and New Lenox elementary school choirs, brass groups, harpist and dulcimer musicians, the New Lenox Community Band, and string ensembles have all performed with the chorale.
In addition, all the rehearsals and performances are held at the District 210 schools, because “(Superintendent) Wylie wants the community to use the facilities,” Stark said.
As Stark hands the baton to a new director, Greg Day, at his final concert, he said he feels the group is left in good hands in Day, “a breath of fresh air” for the program.
For ticket information, call 815-485-2307.