Leawood Singers: More than four decades of choral quality
Johnson County is rich in choral groups—and among the most longstanding is the Leawood Singers.
The group formed in spring of 1969, when the Leawood Women's Club chorus had dissolved and a new member was trying to restart it. It had an accompanist, but no director. At the same time, I was trying to start a chorus called the Leawood Welcomers, but our group had no regular accompanist.
I was approached by Dorothy Bioff, of the Women's Club, about combining forces to present a musical program with that group's accompa-nist and under my direction. We found that we enjoyed singing together so much that we permanently combined, with the blessing of both clubs. Between May 1969 and May 1970, we performed in 15 concerts.
When we formed, we had a purpose: to provide programs for nursing homes, clubs, and organizations with no budget for entertainment. We also sang in hospitals. We rehearsed September through mid-May each season and traveled widely throughout the metropolitan area.
One record we are particularly proud of is that we have sung for the Johnson County Nursing Center (now the Evergreen Community of Johnson County) every December and May since 1969. We have almost as strong a record of singing for the Good Samaritan Society.
Over the years our numbers stayed pretty constant as people came and went—sickness would take a toll, members moved away—but we had loyal members who loved the chorus. We rehearsed in a number of places over the years, including Leawood Presbyterian Church, Leawood Methodist Church, Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherokee Christian Church, and, for the past 10 years, the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. These churches were most generous in opening space to us.
We have performed 833 programs to date, over our 41 seasons. We have sung on the stage of the Folly Theatre for the Folly volunteers, at the Ritz Charles for the volunteers of the Overland Park Regional Hospital, and in the ballrooms of several hotels for the PEO State Inspiration Day gathering. We sing every year for the Leawood City Hall Holiday Lighting Ceremony, and performed a special dedication song for the ribbon cutting of Leawood City Hall.
We have many wonderful tales to tell of our experiences. We were caught up in a police chase one time when our carpool caravan was coming back from Olathe, with police and sheriff's cars on both sides of us chasing a man who had stolen a car.
In many places where we performed, pianos had missing keys, were badly out of tune, or, in one case, had no pedals.
At one nursing home, pest exterminators had been there the day before and our pianist had to maneuver around bugs crawling out from between the keys and across the music rack.
At one concert, the legs on the piano bench gave way. Another time, a nursing home arranged for us to come, but we arrived only to learn that the activity director had forgotten the engagement and taken most of the residents on an outing.
One nursing home had a security system so only a few of us could leave at a time through the activated double doors. One little resident saw her chance for escape, got into the middle of a group of us, and tried to leave. (We ratted her out!)
In honor of our 40th season of service, the Leawood Women's Club established a scholarship to the University of Kansas summer choir camp.
Nancy Barnes has been our accompanist from the beginning, taking a sabbatical when her husband was transferred in 1982 but returning in 1987 and sharing accompanist duties with Ruth Lowell, who has since died. We have only had three accompanists, the other being Karen Lewis, for one season.
A few years ago we changed our membership requirements, and we now welcome women from the entire metropolitan area. We just ask that members have a musical background and commit to weekly rehearsals September through mid-May. We prepare two major programs each year: a winter holiday program and a more general program that we perform during the spring and fall.
Readers interested in joining may contact me by calling 913-381-1915.