It’s always exciting when someone from North Carolina shows up on American Idol. In the show’s 12 seasons there have been several, including hometown favorites Clay Aiken and Scotty McCreery. They serve as a testament to the great talent residing in our state, and make us feel pride in our home and its people.
Cary, too, has a wealth of talent abiding in its residents. Vocal, musical, performance, dance — you’ll find it all here on the local stage. We spoke with three Cary arts groups that thrive on the talent of this community and seek to grow their reach with every performance.
Here we’ll lift the curtain on the Concert Singers of Cary, the Cary Town Band and the Cary Players.
Meet and join them.
Left: Gary Lew – Concert Singers of Cary
“There’s great camaraderie and I enjoy the music. There’s music I’ve never seen before.”
Memorable Concert: Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light/The Passion of Joan of Arc
Center: Ingrid Speakman – Concert Singers of Cary
Sings: Second soprano
“I get a lot of enjoyment from the variety of pieces. There’s 20th century pops, jazz — never a boring moment!”
Right: Peter LeBeau – Concert Singers of Cary
Memorable Performance: Video Games Live with the NC Symphony
“Meymandi Hall was packed; it was one of the weirdest but coolest performances.”
Concert Singers of Cary
“Think of those Russian dolls where you take one out, and there’s a smaller one inside,” said Larry Speakman, artistic director and conductor of the Concert Singers of Cary, the 150-person all-volunteer choral ensemble that convenes once a week for the joy bringing vocal music to life.
Within the full chorus — the largest of the dolls — are more specialized ensembles such as the Chorale, Chamber Choir and Choral Artists, each one decreasing in size and increasing in musical experience.
“We want to be a one-stop opportunity for people interested in singing,” Speakman said. As a community choir, the group holds auditions once a year and builds its ranks from the talented singers in the Cary area, from recreational singers through collegiate or professionally trained vocalists.
Founded in 1991, the Concert Singers of Cary is performing its 23rd season. But only since the Cary Arts Center opened in 2011 — with fixed rehearsal and performance space — has the group become a permanent fixture on the downtown Cary arts scene.
“We were more well known outside of Cary than within,” Speakman said. “A lot of that had to do with the lack of venue. Locally we were limited to churches.”
Larry Speakman – Concert Singers of Cary founder and director
“At the end of our first season, we were invited to perform with the N.C. Symphony on the finale to Beethoven’s Ninth. Within two years we were standing behind the N.C. Symphony.”
But arts aficionados will recognize them as the group that sings behind the N.C. Symphony, primarily for the symphony’s pops programs such as the Summerfest Series and last year’s Video Games Live.
“When the N.C. Symphony does choral performances, the people who attend have an expectation for a professional orchestra, and they expect the chorus to match,” said Speakman, which puts pressure on the Concert Singers to deliver professional-level work.
“It’s all about the art, all about the music,” said Speakman. “When you have people that put the kind of time and effort … in a group like this — I don’t think they would do that if the only glory was the performance.”
In addition to the performances with the Symphony, the Concert Singers hold an annual four-concert season. Every concert is different and showcases a broad range of musical styles.
“From our beginnings, we said we don’t want to be pigeon-holed into classical choral pieces,” emphasized Speakman, who admits that a strictly classical repertoire can seem pretentious to some audiences.
Instead, Speakman crafts what he calls “collage programming,” or zig-zagging between different music styles to keep the audience engaged and surprised. The result is a fun, exciting concert that will be appreciated by music lovers of all types.
“A piece of music is a quiet piece of paper until we make it into something. When the performance is over it becomes a quiet piece of paper again,” said Speakman. “We realize that this piece comes alive with all the work we put into it. There’s a process of discovery that is part of the creative reward in what we do. The performances are the chance to experience the music at its highest, most intense level and pull the audience into the experience with us.”
Next concert: King David by Arthur Honegger with special guest narrator Ira David Wood III, Saturday, March 22, 7:30 p.m., Cary Arts Center.
Cary Town Band
If you’ve attended Lazy Daze or the Independence Day celebration at Koka Booth Amphitheatre, chances are you’ve heard the Cary Town Band.
Stuart Holoman – Cary Town Band director
Also plays: E-flat clarinet
“Every concert is different. We’re the only band with all free concerts and we want to keep it that way.”
Unofficially, the band operates as the official town band, playing for holidays, festivals, grand openings and dedications as well as organizing its own six- or seven-concert season, keeping the nearly 50 members very busy.
The concerts, which are always free, might surprise you.
“We are a concert band from the year 1900,” said band director Stuart Holoman. “We focus on music from that time that people haven’t heard in 100 years. It’s a concert your great-grandparents could have heard.”
Ragtime, polkas, overtures and marches written between 1860 and 1920 are the mainstays of the Cary Town Band’s library, but they also mix in modern pieces for popular appeal.
Holoman, who joined the band in 1990, three years after its founding, became director in 2009 and works hard to make every concert different and fun — for the band members and the audience.
“I want to make it fun, to make every rehearsal fun,” he said. “When you leave a rehearsal you should feel good about what you did. When you leave a concert you should feel good about what we did. I want that same feeling all the time.”
The emphasis on fun over musical perfection — Holloman admits none of the music is perfect — creates an enjoyable atmosphere for members.
Left: Cindy Sinkez – Cary Town Band publicity and town liaison
“We have fun with our concerts. It’s a fun group because we enjoy ourselves.”
Right: Nancy Colegrove – Cary Town Band secretary and charter member
Memorable Concert: Playing with the circus in Morrisville
“If the town band had not been started, I don’t know if I’d still be playing.”
“There’s a camaraderie among the group. … People like each other and respect each other. They want to play, and do as good as they can, and enjoy the pleasure of making good music together.
“We make mistakes, but by God there’s spirit in that music!” Holoman said.
Musicians of all skill levels are invited to audition for the band’s 49 positions. Some instrument sections are currently full, but there are always some open positions, Holoman says. The band’s website, carytownband.org, lists the details.
Even auditions remain consistent with Holoman’s penchant for pleasure. As informal as it gets, interested musicians simply have to attend a few rehearsals and play alongside the existing band. Holoman uses that time to observe the player’s skill and commitment; and the auditioner can gauge how much he or she enjoys the experience.
One of the band’s ultimate goals is to serve the town of Cary.
“Cary asks, we’re there,” Holoman said. “You have an event. We play for it.”
Next concert: Czech Mates, Friday, February 21, 7:30 p.m., Cary Arts Center.
You’ve probably heard of A Christmas Story — the holiday classic produced six years running by Cary’s very own community theater company and a ubiquitous tale that signals the true start of the holidays for many families. Sound familiar? (A few of you might have heard of the 1983 film version too.)
Dan Martschenko, founder and president of the Cary Players, named the troupe’s initial production of A Christmas Story in 2004 their “first, big successful show.” From there the company was off and running, producing an average of four shows per year, 38 total in its 10 years of operation.
“I looked around and there were no theater companies in Cary,” Martschenko said. “So I started one.”
Like many start-up organizations, the Cary Players experienced a bumpy beginning, fraught with lack of venue space and high expenses. Nevertheless the first production, Our Town, debuted in January 2003.
“I want to create a theater company where people feel comfortable coming, everybody’s treated with respect and where people have an enjoyable time,” Martschenko said. “It’s truly a community effort.”
More than 1,000 residents of Western Wake have contributed to the Cary Players over its lifetime as actors, ushers, costume designers, set painters and more. And more than 25,000 people have supported the Players as audience.
Left: Dan Martschenko – Cary Players president and founder
Memorable Role: Directing A Christmas Story in 2012
“I want to give back to Cary.”
Right: Debra Grannan – Cary Players Board of Directors member
Roles: Actor, director, producer, stage manager, props manager, usher, stage hand and more
Memorable Part: Mother in A Christmas Story
“I love the challenge of playing something different than yourself.”
Still, the organization is always eager for new talent, on stage or off, to join its ranks of dedicated volunteers. Each production has had at least one new person cast in a role, a trend they’d like to see continue.
“There’s a place for everyone,” said Martschenko, who has acted in five shows and directed one. “If you want to get involved, we have a place for you.
“There’s so much talent in Cary. These are people who didn’t choose to become a Broadway star or a Hollywood actor; they chose to raise a family. And that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. They do. We give them a chance to have that moment in the spotlight.”
The lifecycle of a Cary Players’ production, from auditions to performance, is about two months. Joining the group’s mailing list through their website, caryplayers.org, is the best way to stay informed about upcoming opportunities.
Desiring to serve and inspire the community, the Cary Players welcome input on what shows to produce and accept applications for directors on their website.
“A lot of theater companies do shows that the actors want to do,” Martschenko said. “We do shows we think people want to see.
“We believe this is a community theater in the truest sense. We want the community to come out and participate and see the shows.”
Next show: An Evening of Possibilities by Mark Harvey Levine, Friday, January 31, 7:30 p.m., Cary Arts Center.