How a Beau­fort con­duc­tor helps the Sea Is­land Cham­ber Singers hit all the right notes

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Lowcountry Life - BY RYAN COPELAND Spe­cial to The Is­land Packet/ The Beau­fort Gazette

It’s near­ing 6 p.m. on a Sun­day evening and the sun is quickly mov­ing below the tree­tops out­side the win­dows of a church as Char­lie Frost qui­etly picks up and puts on his glasses.

That must mean it’s show­time for the di­rec­tor of the Sea Is­land Cham­ber Singers.

As Frost moves across the floor of the sanc­tu­ary at St. John’s Lutheran Church, the as­sem­bled singers straighten in their chairs and the creak­ing of the ris­ers soft­ens.

When Frost reaches the piano, he looks down at his mu­sic and soon the glasses are off again. As he strikes the first chord to guide vo­cal warm-ups, the fun for him has fi­nally be­gun.

“Good prac­tice is key, but it’s also where I have the most fun,” said Frost. “The re­hearsals are a great part of the jour­ney.”

The look on the faces of the singers – those who passed the au­di­tion – seems to agree with that sen­ti­ment.

Some 12 of the 34 cur­rent mem­bers have been with Frost since his first con­cert as their di­rec­tor back in 2006.

The New Jer­sey na­tive, grad­u­ate of West­min­ster Choir Col­lege and for­mer church mu­sic min­is­ter was asked to as­sem­ble a choir to join the in­stru­men­tal­ists in a Beau­fort Sym­phony Or­ches­tra con­cert that year. It didn’t stop there. “Peo­ple came up to me in the months af­ter the con­cert and asked me when our group was go­ing to sing again,” said Frost.

From there, the con­certs be­came a once-a-year deal for the group and moved into twice-ayear events in re­cent years.

That’s what you call “back by pop­u­lar de­mand.”

Not much has changed, ei­ther.

Frost still chooses the mu­sic and the theme of con­cert by what­ever mood (or spirit) strikes him, though he ad­mits to fa­vor­ing last spring’s con­cert that fea­tured Schu­bert’s Mass in G Ma­jor.

Some con­certs fea­ture fa­mil­iar words set to dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal ar­range­ments, songs sung in Latin, or the oc­ca­sional com­plete (but pleas­ant) ob­scu­rity.

This time around the group is fo­cus­ing on sa­cred mu­sic by Men­delssohn, Han­del, Rut­ter and oth­ers. It’s more tra­di­tional fare that Frost calls both “lis­ten­able” and “singable.”

While this con­cert – com­ing at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 at St. John’s – may in­clude pop­u­lar canon­i­cal songs, other as­pects of the Sea Is­land Cham­ber reper­toire re­main the same.

Hit­ting the right notes and manag­ing har­monies, not to men­tion re­mem­ber­ing dif­fer­ent vo­cal dy­nam­ics and chang­ing time sig­na­tures, en­sure the chal­lenge lies in both the singers’ tal­ents and the lis­ten­ers’ ears in de­tect­ing the sub­tleties.

Frost, as al­ways, feeds off of the en­ergy of his vo­cal­ists.

“The mu­si­cians have to trust them­selves in the di­rec­tion of the mu­sic,” said Frost. “We have faith that it will all come to­gether.”

Any reg­u­lar con­cert­goer al­ready knows Frost also feeds off the en­thu­si­asm of the au­di­ence. It’s a sig­na­ture vis­ual as well as au­dio per­for­mance.

Some­times lost amid the swells of the loud­est mu­sic is ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the con­duc­tor, sweat­ing and wav­ing with every fin­ished mea­sure.

You can al­most imag­ine him as the coach of the Dal­las Cowboys, will­ing his of­fense down the field and over the goal line, ready for the ap­pre­cia­tive ap­plause of the crowd.

The en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly for those in­volved in pulling it off, has been a wel­come ad­di­tion to Beau­fort’s event cal­en­dar over the last decade.

“The singers have got­ten bet­ter over time, or maybe I’ve got­ten bet­ter di­rect­ing them,” he said.

Ei­ther way, the glasses will go on, if only briefly, soon enough.

The singers will stand at at­ten­tion and take that last quiet clear­ing of the throat.

It’s al­most show­time.

Sub­mit­ted photo

Di­rec­tor Char­lie Frost con­ducts dur­ing a re­hearsal of the Sea Is­land Cham­ber Singers. The group’s next con­cert is Nov. 11 at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

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