HICKSVILLE — There is an early Christmas present waiting at the Huber Opera House and Civic Center in Hicksville.
The newly-reformed Huber Chorus will be performing for the community at 7 p.m. Dec. 7. The freewill donation performance will help kick off the Huber’s 20th anniversary celebration.
“I want this to be the Huber’s Christmas gift to the community for its help restoring this beautiful, beautiful place,” said choir director Andy Gross of the Huber.
Gross took over directing the chorus from his friend and original director Virlynn Rex, who passed in 2015. The Huber Chorus had been defunct for several years. The chorus originally was formed to help raise funds to restore the historic Huber building, which had been used as a nightclub prior to being purchased by the Huber group in 1999.
The idea to resurrect the chorus came from a group of Rex’s friends who suggested Gross direct another Huber Chorus to kick off the 20th anniversary celebration. There will be a dedication to Rex in the program to honor her role in the chorus and at the Huber.
Gross said that Rex would be pleased that the chorus has returned.
“It wouldn’t be here without her,” he said.
The chorus currently has 27 members. It’s open for more people to join in the future.
During the performance, the chorus will sing from risers on the floor to provide for better acoustic accompaniment and allow choral members to be close to the audience.
Admission is a freewill donation. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with the performance at 7 p.m. The Huber will be well decorated as the Festival of Wreaths will be held earlier in the evening (see related story). Santa also will be on hand to greet visitors of all ages. Punch and cookies will be served at intermission of the performance.
Sponsors of the event include SMTA, First Federal Bank and Rick Taylor Insurance.
Gross said that full chorus will perform about 10 selections. There also will be single selections done by the men and women choral members.
“One of the things I wanted is small groups within the chorus to do songs they like,” said Gross. “Right now we have seven groups. One (song a group is doing that) tickles me is ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen, but with holiday lyrics. There are also ‘The 12 Days After Christmas,’ and ‘You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch.’ We’re trying to do a balance of secular and sacred (music).”
Gross said that the second half of the program will feature a sing-a-long that is geared toward younger audience members.
Producer Pam Diehl said she hopes the performance is packed with the community coming out to enjoy the music.
Accompanying the chorus will be Nancy Cline, who was the accompanist the last time the Huber Chorus performed in the winter of 2009-10.
“I love Christmas music so when I was asked to do this (there was no doubt),” Cline said.
Cline said she’s also happy the performance is being done as a thank you to the community for its support of the Huber for the last two decades.
“In the last six to seven years, (the Huber) has become very active in the community,” she said. “Part (of the chorus’ return) is thanks to the excitement as the Huber is such an active community member. … The show attendances are getting bigger and bigger. This (the Huber) is a gem in town.”
It’s hoped that the chorus will be around for far more than this Christmas performance.
“Virlynn wanted it to be an every year thing, and it was for a while,” Cline said. He noted that interest in it did decrease, but things have changed since then.
“I’m hoping to make it (the chorus) an every other year thing,” he said. “This is different than 20 years ago. There aren’t many church choirs (now). … The first year, Virlynn used the church (Grace United Methodist) choir as the core members and brought other people in. Now, just two are members of the church choir and everyone else is from the community (and outside of town).”
Gross said he hopes that this performance not only thanks the community, but helps the Huber as well.
“Virlynn, in the olden days, she ordered music through the church for the first concerts,” he said. “For this concert, we’re using some of that music from Grace United Methodist’s music library. (At the end of the performance,) Grace’s music will go back, but the music we purchase we hope to stay here (at the Huber) and start a music library.”
Diehl, Gross and Cline hope everyone comes out for the performance on Dec. 7 to both kick off the holiday season and the 20th anniversary of the Huber’s restoration.