Chorale Marks 20 Years in Herndon

Chorale Marks 20 Years in Herndon

Town Council honors Towne Square Singers founder Jean Goldsby.

Jean Goldsby has been entertaining Herndon audiences for 20 years. On Tuesday, the Town of Herndon will take time out to honor Goldsby.

Director of the Herndon Towne Square Singers, Goldsby founded the town' s first and only community supported chorale group back in September of 1982. This December, Goldsby and her fellow performers will mark their 20th year when they take the stage at the Industrial Strength Theatre for their annual holiday show.

"She' s a Herndon original. The Towne Square Singers have really become a part of her identity," said Councilman Harlon Reece, who has sung with the group 14 years. "Jean is so creative and equally devoted to making every show special."

During Tuesday's Town Council meeting, the council is expected to officially recognize Goldsby's two decades of service to the community. The Herndon Towne Square Singers has been operated under the auspices of the town's Herndon Department of Parks and Recreation since its inception. Art Anselene was director of Parks and Recreation 20 years ago when Goldsby came to his office and said she wanted to start a community chorale group. Some things don't change. Goldsby is still leading the group and Anselene is in his 26th year as parks director. "They have always been a great group to work with," Anselene said. "It's a testament to [Goldsby's] leadership and vision that they are still going strong today."

<b>WHILE ANSELENE </b>might not be surprised at the group's longevity, its founder is. "I can't believe we are still going after all these years," said Goldsby, who also sings and plays the piano. "I guess I've stayed on as long as I have because of the fulfillment I feel after every show is completed. I love the finished product and I love to see the final picture after all of those months."

In addition to several private and special touring event performances throughout the calendar year, the Herndon Towne Square Singers present two major concerts in Herndon in May and December. In its resolution, the council praises the group's "myriad of musical performances each year." The group — 38 vocalists strong — performs musical numbers from Broadway show tunes to patriotic ballads.

For her part, Goldsby thanked the council and the mayor, Richard Thoesen, for their continued dedication to the arts. "Herndon is no longer a small town," Goldsby said. "But it still shows total support for the arts and that starts with the leadership of [Mayor Thoesen]."

On Tuesday night, the council will also applaud the more than $20,000 that Goldsby and her group, along with Holy Cross Lutheran Church, has raised for local handicapped children and their families.

"For me, that is one of the most special things we have been able to do," said Goldsby, referring to her group's charitable contributions. "It's great to sing and perform, but to be able to give back to the community directly has meant a lot to all of us."

<b>FOR 32 YEARS</b>, Goldsby, and her husband of 45 years, Kenneth, lived in Herndon. While the Goldsby's recently moved into a new apartment in South Riding, Goldsby said her heart remains in Herndon. The couple raised three sons, Kenny Jr., Dan and Bob, who went to Herndon High School. "I'm only 15 minutes away and I am in the town almost every day, it seems," she said. "It will always be a part of me."

When she was 5 years old, Goldsby, taught herself to play the piano. She has been playing, singing and directing ever since. "Music is in my blood," the Eerie, Pa.-native, said. "Though, until recently, I didn't know how much it was a part of me."

At a recent family reunion, Goldsby, whose mother was a professional pianist, learned that nearly all of her father's family, whom she did not spend much, if any, time together growing up, was musically inclined. "It was weird," she said, "All these relatives that I hadn't ever met or seen in years, were all either music majors, concert pianists or music teachers."

Now, Goldsby's 6-year-old grandson, Devon, is showing signs of following his grandmother's musical lead after she gave him her piano for Christmas. Recently, Goldsby and Devon performed, for the first time together, at his school. "That is just the best gift I could have ever given him," she said. "His piano teacher is just amazed at how focused he is for his age."

<b>AS DIRECTOR</b>, Goldsby runs the group's auditions twice a year. Currently, there are 10 men and 28 women Towne Square Singers. With a wide range of ages, experience levels and singing styles, Goldsby said she is always looking for new ways to shake up her 20-year-old Herndon institution. "It isn't just a voice," she said, "stars show a stage presence."

Goldsby admits she demands a lot from her performers, but she would not have it any other way. You will never see any of Goldsby's singers singing along to written music. "They must memorize everything," she said. "This really helps our singers connect with the audience, because rather than looking down at the words, they can make eye contact with people in the crowd. It is much more intimate."

For nearly all of her 20 years at the helm, Goldsby, in addition to raising her family, worked full-time for United Airlines. "It's a lot of work," she said. "I don't know if everyone fully appreciates all that we put into our shows, but as long as they enjoy it every year, I don't care."

Singers will learn upwards of 20 songs per show. For the annual holiday show in December, Goldsby and her troupe will begin preparations in September, sometimes earlier. The first month, she said, is always the most difficult as her singers struggle to learn the new music. "Eventually, they start to feel it and get it," she said. "That's always a great moment for me."

"She never ceases to amaze me," said Reece. "Every year she comes up with new and fun program ideas."

The ideas, said Goldsby, come to her at all times and when she is least expecting it. "I can be in the shower, riding in a car or on vacation, when I think of something we can try," she said. "I love Andrew Lloyd Webber, and hopefully, one day, I will be able to do an entire show dedicated to him and his music."

<b>WITH A DIVERSE </b>group of talented individuals, there can be tension, but, with 20 years behind her, Goldsby seems to know how to manage egos and limit back-stage squabbling. "Year in and year out, I am very fortunate to get so much cooperation from everyone," the director said. "Lately, it' s also been great to have an assistant director, Harlon Reece. He's been a great sounding board for me."

Reece, who has been with the group since he moved to Herndon in 1988, said Goldsby has a tremendous feeling for the emotion and the music. She also has her pulse on the singers and their needs. "Jean is more aware of her performers — at all times — than any director I have ever worked with," said Reece, who is also the president of the Council for the Arts. "And unlike a lot of directors, Jean

gives everybody, at some point, a chance for the spotlight through solos. Ultimately, it is about the entire performance, but, at the same time, it's nice for a director to let us try things on our own, as well."

Looking back, Goldsby is happy with the progress of the group that she founded. "We started out singing in shopping malls," she said, of her group's early days. "How good could you sound in a mall?"

Goldsby, who suffers from a degenerative back pain aggravated when she was hit by a car in Chicago more than two years ago, said she isn't sure how much longer she will be able to continue leading her beloved Towne Square Singers.

Of all the shows and the memories created over the years, a few stand out for Goldsby. In 1989, the Towne Square Singers were the only chorale group invited to perform for Princess Margaret at the 400th Anniversary of America on Roanoke Island, she said.

"During the 50th anniversary of the USO, we did a special tribute show which I loved," she said.

Today, after 20 years of practicing and performing in everything from annual Christmas concerts at the Lions Club to this year's first anniversary of Sept. 11 on the Town Green, Goldsby says she is consistently happy with the end product. "Basically our group has a good family feeling," she said. "We've been singing together long enough, we ought to sound good."