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September 6, 2013

Musical milestone

Newburyport Choral Society celebrating 80th anniversary season

If the Newburyport Choral Society were to have a catchphrase, it would probably be: “Anyone can sing.”

It’s a mantra often repeated by music director Gerald Weale and one that comes up repeatedly when members of the group talk about their experiences.

And with the nonprofit organization kicking off its 80th anniversary season this week, it’s also something the singers hope that anyone considering joining them will remember.

One person who always thought he couldn’t sing is Al Cox, a 62-year-old bass who had no previous musical experience before becoming a member in 2010.

Cox, a Newburyport resident who had attended choral society performances for years, was at the group’s annual Summer Sing during Yankee Homecoming that year. Though audience members are encouraged to sing along, he was really just there to listen and support his son Joe, who was thinking about joining the society.

Weale approached the two after the concert, “just because we were hanging around at the end,” Cox said.

“He talked us both into singing,” he said. “I said, ‘I can’t sing.’ Jerry’s response was, ‘Of course you can. Anyone can sing.’”

And Cox soon discovered that he could, in fact, sing and has since learned how to read music and how to harmonize with his section.

“It’s actually been quite wonderful,” said Cox, who also serves as the fundraising director. “I have used this as a way to really stretch myself. This is outside my comfort zone. To be suddenly going in a new direction is scary, but it’s very exciting.”

Vice President Patricia Levesque also recalls being intimidated when she first joined the choral society in 1988, inspired by the group’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” a piece it will revisit for this year’s Winter Concert. But she quickly fell in love with “just the pure pleasure you get in this music.”

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