An all-local lineup of soloists from many different backgrounds will be featured at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 27, when the Los Alamos Choral Society (LACS) marks Memorial Day with a concert at the United Church, 2525 Canyon Road.
(Note: Reports have been circulating in town that the concert will be held Monday at Fuller Lodge. That is NOT correct.)
Tickets for the Sunday concert, available at CB FOX and at the door, will be $15 for adults. Students may attend free.
George Spillman, a physicist retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, will sing the baritone solo in “My God Is a Rock,” a lively, pounding spiritual that will be the first song in the concert.
Spillman is a veteran of several Los Alamos Little Theatre and Dixon theater shows, and, several years ago, he played “a carpenter’s mate” in the Los Alamos Light Opera performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera “H.M.S. Pinafore.”
This solo, however, will be his first with Choral Society.
Spillman is not the only laboratory scientist in this production.
Rene LeClair, a tenor who has sung many solos for Choral Society in the past, will be the soloist in “Shenandoah” this Sunday.
He has also performed with Coro de Cámara and Sangre de Cristo Chorale, and he sings regularly with the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church Choir, where he serves as a Cantor at Mass and sings for weddings and funerals.
He played “Ralph” in Pinafore.
However, asked if he is a professional musician, he said no. “I’m a research engineer at the lab,” he said. He has a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Joan Schaffner-Contarino, another frequent soloist for Choral Society, will be the soprano soloist Sunday in Aaron Copland’s “The Promise of Living.”
She has a degree in music education from the University of Massachusetts, and master’s degrees in creative arts and in aesthetic literacy from Fitchburg (Mass.) University.
In Los Alamos, she teaches voice and piano for musicians young and old — “five to 95.”
Norma Hart, the soprano soloist in “My God Is a Rock,” said, “I’ve been singing all my life. I enjoy it.” She remembers singing in a children’s choir at her church in California when she was “about 10 or12 years old.”
However, it was science, indirectly, that brought her to Los Alamos. Her husband, Orval Hart, is a computer scientist who is retired from the laboratory but still works as a lab consultant in retirement.
Norma has raised a family and worked at many jobs in Los Alamos, but she joined Choral Society in 1977, and she has sung under at least five Choral Society directors since then. She also sings in the LDS White Rock Choir.
There are two instrumentalists in this concert.
Linnea Ohlsen plays the viola in “Old Home Day,” a piece that includes “musical quotes” from Civil War tunes.
Ohlsen is “principal viola” in the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra. (She also plays in the Roswell orchestra.) Musically, she divides her time. She sings alto in Choral Society in the spring and plays with the symphony in the fall. Her husband, Gerald, sings bass in Choral Society. And they both belong to a ukulele group.
Cindy Little, the Choral Society accompanist, grew up in Los Alamos. She is the daughter of Jim Little, a retired LANL scientist, and Gail Little, a long-time school music teacher.
She will be accompanying the singers throughout the Sunday concert—and there are places where she is the solo musician for whole pages of complex music.
Little started playing piano when she was “6 or 7.” She holds a bachelor of music degree in piano performance from Arizona State University.
She played for the Sangre de Cristo Chorale for 15 years, and she has now played with Choral Society for about 17 years.
Legend has it that Choral Society began one night when several Manhattan Project scientists got together around a friend’s piano and began singing. They had such a good time that they began singing on a regular basis, and soon, so many people joined them that they had to find a larger rehearsal space. They chose the name “Los Alamos Choral Society.”
Now, more than 70 years later, they would probably be pleased to see that Choral Society still exists and is still a mix of interesting scientists and science-affected musicians who sing and play just because they love it.
Come to the United Church at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 27, and join the fun.