BG Singers celebrate 20 years with weekend concerts
Erin O'Leary, of Arlington Heights, performs with the BG Singers during the group's April 14 choral concert at Stevenson High School's Performing Arts Center. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
THE BUFFALO GROVE SINGERS
MEMBERS: 248, seven have been active the entire 20 years
CONCERTS: 465 songs performed
CROWING ACHIEVEMENT: When members of the Singers traveling group, Encore, won the national “Sing!” competition in 2011 and a $20,000 donation to the Lauri S. Bauer Foundation for Sudden Loss.
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:32PM
BUFFALO GROVE — For the first time in its 20 years, The Buffalo Grove Singers are going to sing the same song twice.
The group’s anniversary celebrations — set for Saturday and Sunday night in Stevenson High School’s performing arts center — will be the Singers’ first concert to include previous material. The entire set list for this weekend’s “Platinum” show was picked, she explained, after an audience vote at the Singers’ April concert.
Linda Rosen, the group’s founder and director, said she is excited to finally trod over some familiar ground.
“Pretty much everyone has a favorite,” Rosen said last week. “They’re all blockbusters.”
The performances also will open with another first for the Singers.
Rosen said 25 former Singers are scheduled to return to Buffalo Grove, joining the current roster of 75 for the opening number, Barry Manilow’s “One Voice.”
“One hundred people on stage, that’s an awesome, awesome sound,” said Rosen, who doubles as a music teacher at Woodlawn Middle School in Long Grove.
The Singers are organized in part by the Buffalo Grove Park District. Lindsay Grandt, the district’s performing arts coordinator, said it’s been a pleasure to work with the group year after year.
“The park district is incredibly proud to have an organization with such longevity,” Grandt said.
Dating back to 1992, the district’s performing arts council produced the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel” with an adult cast, and after that decided to organize an adult choir. Rosen, the chair of that council, expected about 25 people to respond to the notice for the first rehearsal at Ivy Hall School.
“We wanted a place where people could go to sing,” said Rosen, describing the original project’s simple premise.
“Sixty-five people showed up,” she said.
The only musician that night, she recalled, was a single pianist, with no amplification.
“Clearly, 65 people don’t just sing with a piano,” Rosen said. “But we were delighted.”
With the unexpected large interest, Rosen stepped away from singing to become the conductor. Rehearsals began right away, followed by a difficult mission of finding a venue for the group’s first concert, planned for February of 1993.
“It was too late in the year,” she said, explaining that many of the nearby auditoriums were already filled through the holidays. “Buffalo Grove High School, Stevenson, they all book up very early.”
The group finally found a spot to perform at Libertyville High School.
The next step, Rosen said, was promotion.
“All of the sudden, we needed a name,” she said.
While the title Buffalo Grove Singers wasn’t Rosen’s choice, it has stuck through the two decades. The Singers’ second concert was at Buffalo Grove High School, and Stevenson has been its home since.
During that time, hundreds of members have performed hundreds of songs, but none twice. They have rehearsed on Tuesday nights.
Rosen is one of seven founding members who have been along for the entire journey.
“Twenty years of Tuesday nights, it’s sort of amazing,” she reflected.
Each show features between 20 and 26 songs, Rosen said, and each show takes about 22 weeks to put together. In addition to the choreography and costuming, the group spends much of its rehearsal time split into the four vocal parts, going through diction, harmonies, cutoffs and dynamics. Rosen said her favorite moments of practices, though, are always when the entire group goes through a song as one.
“Once we come together, that’s when we make music,” she said.
The Singers have a roster of about 75 members. There are no new performers for 2012, Rosen reported, but three new members joined in 2011.
Throughout the Singers’ 20 years of success, Rosen said the group has focused on philanthropy about as much as it has harmonies. Singers events have funded the purchase of a defibrillator for the Village of Buffalo Grove, the donation of $2,000 worth of musical instruments to the Manilow Fund for Health and Hope, and other contributions to Northwest Community Hospital and the American Cancer Society. The organization adopted and cleaned a stretch of Aptakisic Road for a year, she added, and earned its “crowning achievement” in 2011, when its traveling subgroup Encore won a national singing competition and earned $20,000 for the Lauri S. Bauer Foundation for Sudden Loss, which is based in Vernon Hills.
“I like to call it ‘The chorus that cares,’” Rosen said.
The Singers typically put on its show in the late winter or spring, so the September concert is a major departure from the schedule. Rosen held no doubt that her performers, and her alumni, would be able to make the condensed schedule look natural.
“It’s just an amazing group.”
Saturday’s show will start at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinee is at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at BigDealProductions.org.