Combined chorale groups prepare for Scotland show

by Clay Neely

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The Centre Masterworks Ensemble Choir breaks from rehearsal at First United Methodist Church for their trip to Newnan’s sister city, Ayr, Scotland. “They have been wanting us to bring our talent to their shores for a long time now,” said Bette Hickman of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission. “It’s going to be an exciting adventure.” 


It was the first official rehearsal for the Centre Masterworks Ensemble Choir before their exchange trip to Ayr, Scotland — which for some years has been Newnan’s “sister city.”

They gathered on a recent Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Newnan. This combined rehearsal included members of the Centre Masterworks Youth Chorale, Centre Masterworks Senior Youth Chorale, and the Masterworks Women.

Over the course of the sister city relationship the last 16 years, the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra has performed in Newnan three times. Now, Newnan’s Centre Masterworks Ensemble Choir has been invited to perform in Ayr in June.

“They have been wanting us to bring our talent to their shores for a long time now,” said Bette Hickman of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission. “It’s going to be an exciting adventure.”

The sister city program between Newnan and Ayr began in 1997, and was established so citizens from both countries could learn new cultures and gain from educational opportunities. It grew out of the Global Achievers program which Hickman heads.

For many of the participants, this event will be a family affair — with members of the Woman's Ensemble like Denise Meacham and Julie Campbell enjoying the opportunity to travel and sing along with their own daughters.

Crystal and her daughter, Avery Haynes, will be taking the long trip to Ayr as well. Avery, 12, is a student at Arnall Middle School and is a member of the Youth Chorale.

Crystal was unabashed in her glowing endorsement of Millie Turek, director of the Youth Chorale, praising not only her ability to instruct but to capture the attention and spirit of all those who participate.

“Millie has been just phenomenal,” said Haynes. “She can take someone who has never read music before and teach them everything they need to know in a very short period of time. It’s simply amazing.”

And that is what’s so special about this journey, Hickman believes.

“When we made the decision to do this, we knew we had to have a performing group that was first class,” Hickman said. “The AFO (Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra) set a very high standard.”

But what started as an idea is fast becoming a reality due in part to support Turek enjoys from the parents who are willing to make this happen.

“This is a big sacrifice for many families,” Hickman noted. “It’s taken a lot of concern and funding to make this leap across the pond, and so we’re so very grateful.”

Let Them Eat Toffee and Full Circle Toys in downtown Newnan are among some of the local businesses who are creating gift baskets to help raise money for the trip by selling raffle tickets.

The finale concert for the Centre Masterworks Youth Chorale is set for May 4, a Sunday, at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts on Lower Fayetteville Road. One-hundred percent of ticket sales will be going to toward the cost of the choir’s journey.

Don Nixon, director for the Performing Arts Centre, praised the hard work and dedication of Turek along with the support that both the parents and community have provided for the children.

“Millie is nationally recognized as a choral conductor, particularly for this age group,” Nixon said. “To have her connected with us as family is very large because she has quite a reputation.”

“When all these elements come together, it’s very exciting and it provides opportunities that very few communities can boast about,” Nixon said. “The opportunity to reciprocate is a great opportunity and will strengthen the relationship between our two communities.”

“Many of us will only connect with Scotland through what they send to us as musicians. We kept them in our homes, we’ve heard them play, we’ve seen their standard. So we get a picture of Scotland through them,” Nixon said. “In reverse, in what we are sending, they will get a picture of us.”

“It’s a big responsibility, but it’s a great joy to represent the community in that way.”



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