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Not for Profit: St. John Singers

Sept. 17, 2006 — For 25 years, the St. John Singers have kept residents and visitors entertained at its annual Christmas and spring concerts, as well as other occasional events throughout the year.
The organization formed out of desperation after a handful of St. John residents tried trekking over to Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas to sing with the Caribbean Chorale.
Unfortunately, getting back and forth from St. John was a daunting and sometimes expensive proposition.
"We took Wallace's jitney bus back to Red Hook for the 10 p.m. ferry. He stopped by for us after he had picked up the students at the College of the Virgin Islands," founding member Laura Bosh recalled. However, UVI classes were sometimes canceled, leaving the St. John residents to call an expensive taxi for the stressful trip to Red Hook.
So, in 1981, they joined forces with Charlotte Amalie High School music teacher John Cahill to form the St. John Singers.
"I would say that the glue that has held this group together is John's willingness to direct, his patience with various levels of ability and a love of music," longtime member Fran Talbot said.
The group was a success right from the start.
"When we first heard the sound that John got out of this amateur group, we were all astounded," founding member Lonnie Willis said.
With about 30 members from many walks of St. John and St. Thomas life, the group has started rehearsals for a special fall concert honoring Mozart's 250th birthday. Although tentatively scheduled for the end of October and early November on both St. Thomas and St. John, the dates and locations are not yet finalized.
As soon as that concert is over, they'll start work on the Christmas Concert to be held at Emmaus Moravian Church and Nazareth Lutheran Church Then in January they'll begin rehearsals for the spring concert.
Margie Labrenz has been a member for many years. "It is a lot of time and effort, but the end result is rewarding," she said, adding that the group now has a following that attends most of the concerts.
However, Labrenz said it would be nice if they had an actual concert hall to hold performances.
While the group's repertoire runs the gamut from classical to traditional and West Indian Christmas tunes, vice president Nancy Morse noted that "it leans toward the classical."
The repertoire often includes original compositions by its members. At the December 2005 concert, longtime member Chris Clark brought down the house with his playful poke at life on St. John in "Tutu Toot."
"Hear the captain call / If we don't get on this boat we won't get home at all," Clark sang about the dependency St. John residents have on the ferry to St. Thomas.
The group is sustained by its concert admission fees, as well as funding from the V.I. Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additionally, each member pays a $30 semiannual fee to help fund the concerts.
Anyone who can carry a tune is welcome to join. Rehearsals are at 6:30 p.m. Mondays at Nazareth Lutheran Church.
For more information, call Morse at 777-6915.
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