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America Sings . . . and Sings and Sings Some More


Lots of American children who sing in school choirs just keep on going as adults. Belting out notes in church and community choruses is lots more fun than, say, grinding away on a cello.

Consider this success story: In 2000, Connie Henry, a career television news producer who had sung in church and town choirs in her home state of Michigan, moved to warmer, sunnier Arizona with visions of a tranquil retirement. She and her husband, Bob, were pioneer residents in a planned community called Anthem, outside the big city of Phoenix.

Anthem was lovely and family-oriented. But to Connie, it lacked something she treasured: a community chorale that could tackle works more challenging than church hymns. In 2003, she put out the word, and 17 singers showed up for the first rehearsal. "If you could sing a little and had a pulse, you were in," Connie says.

But the criteria are a little tougher now.

"ProMusica Arizona," as the group is called, has mushroomed to 60 singers and a 50- piece orchestra. Each of the musicians, who range in age from 11 to 80, pays $50 a year for the privilege.

Artistic director Kevin Kozacek, who's an airline pilot, somehow finds time to conduct the chorale and orchestra and hold classes for members who can carry a tune but never learned to really read music.

And forget retirement for Connie Henry. She donates huge chunks of her life, searching for places to rehearse and the money to pay for them; navigating among 110 distinct personalities; and scheduling and promoting two big concerts and smaller performances each year, including one atop a float in a community parade.

There's some evidence that the pressures of modern life have cut deeply into Americans' time for group activities like choral singing. Maybe so, but you couldn't prove it in Anthem, Arizona.