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"A Classy, Brassy Christmas" with Queen City Voices

(Poster design courtesy Queen City Voices)

Founded less than three years ago by Artistic Director Jonathan Raney, Queen City Voices promotes, through vocal and choral music, “equality and positive enrichment for the lives of (their) members, the Springfield queen city area and our community at large.”  The group’s annual Christmas concert, called “A Brassy, Classy Christmas,” will be performed in a FREE concert Sunday December 10 at 2:00pm in the auditorium of the Springfield Art Museum, 1111 E. Brookside Drive. Chorus Manager Amy Hoogstraet Safley visited KSMU to talk about the ensemble and the concert.

“I may be biased, but it’s a wonderful, wonderful community choir here in Springfield.  This will be our sixth concert—we do two concerts a year. The thing that we pride ourselves on is that the choir is all-inclusive.  We just really are open and welcoming of everyone in the community. The only requirements to be in the choir are that you have to be at least 18, you have to love to sing, and you have to be available for just one hour every Monday night.  There’s no auditioning for the choir.  We do have people in the choir who can read music, but we have people that don’t and can’t—and it works out just great.

”Having such a diverse group of people is great in so many ways, because if you’re with a group of people that are all the same, there’s not a lot of growth—it’s kind of stagnant.” But with a diverse group who are united by their love of singing, says Safley, “it’s just a wonderful opportunity for your heart and mind to grow and expand, and your (musical) skills as well.  A lot of times when people hear the term ‘community choir,’ they think ‘meh... they’re probably not very good.’ Well, we really hold ourselves to a very high standard—Jonathan Raney, our director, he holds us to a high standard. In fact, all of our music is memorized, which I think is unusual.”  No black music binders to hind behind for this choir!

Queen City Voices currently has 30 to 35 members... of course, they’re always looking to recruit new singers to the group.  Like many choral groups, they are especially interested in seeing more men in the group, tenors and basses.

The title for the concert, “A Brassy, Classy Christmas,” refers in part to the fact that the choir will be accompanied by an instrumental ensemble.  Safley says, “We have strings and brass, and we have a flute, a clarinet, percussion, and of course piano.  There’s really something for everyone in this concert.” Special guest soloist for the concert is soprano Jennifer Forni, who now teaches voice at Evangel University after coming to Springfield as a guest artist for several Springfield Regional Opera productions, as well as performing at the Metropolitan Opera and other major companies.  This season she was heard as Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello.  Forni will sing a duet with Queen City Voices Artistic Director Jonathan Raney, and she’ll solo on the perennial favorite “O Holy Night.”

We gave listeners the chance to hear members of the Queen City Voices ensemble by playing a recording of their performance of Vince Guaraldi’s familiar “Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas. (It starts about 5:43 into the audio file at the top of this page.)  It was sung by the group’s octet, or “Voxtet” as they’re called.  The Voxtet will sing four numbers at the Sunday concert, in addition to various solos, duets, and songs by the full Queen City Voices choir. “Jonathan (Raney) is really adept at picking beautiful arrangements,” says Amy Hoogstraet Safley.  While the musical selections will all be familiar to listeners, Safley says “the arrangements are gorgeous.  We’re doing an arrangement of ‘Silent Night’ that I had never heard before—and it’s now my new favorite!”

Because parking at the Art Museum can be “a bit limited” according to Safley, starting at 1:15pm on Sunday Dec.10 there will be a shuttle driving between the Museum and National Avenue Christian Church, 1515 S. Natural, so concertgoers can park at the church and catch the shuttle to and from the Art Museum. For information search "Queen City Voices" on Facebook or email

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.