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Demopolis Singers present Spring Concert

Twice a year, ever since Christmas of 1995, the Demopolis Singers offer a musical moment to enjoy, share and even join in.

The 2003 Spring Concert recognizes everyone born in the USA, since its theme is “One Nation &045; 50 United States.” Performances will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 4 and 7 p.m. Monday, May 5, in the Fellowship Hall of the First Baptist Church.

There is no admission charge, but contributions are welcome to help offset the cost of the production.

The original suggestion for the spring production, according to director Ed Rush, had been batted around for several months, but it gelled among the singers during an informal brainstorming session while the group gathered before the start of its performance during Christmas on the River. That’s when Demopolis Academy third grade teacher Carolyn Bell sang a few bars of the song she teaches her students to help them learn the states of the Union.

The idea to celebrate the states took off, and members started suggesting songs from different states or songs that had the name of a state in them.

But Rush said that while the idea for the theme was simple, getting hold of the music was not. “It was very difficult to find published choral arrangements,” he said. Most of what he found was written in a sing-along style.

Rush, an accomplished composer and arranger, took it on himself to adapt much of what is being sung to fit the voices that make up the Demopolis Singers. The concert includes several vocal soloists featuring Bell, Davidson and Donna Bishop.

“Generally whatever I bring to them, they’re open to what I can find,” he said.

This concert features something extra, however. Several members of the Singers and people from outside the group are playing musical instruments either by themselves or to accompany the songs.

Heading the group, of course, is Bernice Spidle, who has accompanied the Demopolis Singers on the piano since the group formed. Other Singers who will take on dual roles are Dennis Davidson on the guitar; Deeya Fitzgerald, saxophone and tamborine; Jan McDonald, ukulele, and Rush on the trombone.

The music will range from blue grass to big band to country, said Rush, and audience participation will be an important part of the performance.

Rush and Fitzgerald play two duets during the concert. Most of the Singers like the instrumental pieces said Rush. “Of course, that means they’re not having to do anything.”

Guest musician Gainus Thomas will add a little percussion background on the washboard, and he will play an instrument that nobody has figured out how to spell, but is pronounced phonetically, “doh-broh.” It sounds very much like a steel guitar.

Guest musicians also include Bill Barton on the bass and Henry Baxley, playing the banjo. Still more background accent will come from the Singers themselves with various claps and toots.

The concert will start off with a song that has quickly become one of the Singers’ favorites &045; “This Land is Your Land.” The group’s signature number “Demopolis, Demopolis,” written by Rush, will conclude the performance.

In between, the Singers will travel from one coast to another, touching down in several states to offer musical tributes.

The women enjoy rehearsing their number, “Rocky Top,” and the men are having fun with their Texas medley of songs. The selection chosen for New York has proven the biggest challenge for the group, but in all cases, the group, as usual, enjoys making music together.

As usual, the Singers come up with their own costumes and decorations for the concert. Red, white and blue will be the predominant colors in costuming this year, and large maps and banners provide the backdrop.

The Demopolis Singers is a volunteer group made up of some 25 area residents who practice once a week in the spring and fall to prepare for the concerts. Anyone interested in joining may call Rush at the First Baptist Church of Demopolis, 289-0473.