Monday, July 16, 2018
Text Size

20171116 Men of A chord MOERINGMen of A Chord

Bob Lemkuil directs a number during a rehearsal last week of the Magic Valley Men of A-Chord men's chorus at St. Mark United Methodist Church in McAllen. The chorus is made of 40 plus barbershop singers.

The hills are alive with the sounds of music, or in the case of the Rio Grande Valley, it is the South Texas plains that are more alive now with music than at any time of the year as a season of concerts begins.

The musical organizations, ranging from barbershop choruses to symphony orchestras, are populated with lots of Winter Texans along with most of those attending the performances.

Among those preparing for a season of music now is the Magic Valley Chorus (MVC) of the Sweet Adelines International, directed by Sandy Seitz, a full-time Victoria Palms Park resident in Donna, who came to the Valley in 1999 after being part of a chorus for many years in Racine, Wisc. Seitz, who is also an accomplished accordionist since learning at age 9, adds to the educational process by throwing in a little bit of technical music theory during rehearsals.

For the full-time Valley residents and the now-arriving Winter Texans, who make up about half of the chorus, a rigorous schedule of activities mark rehearsals being held Monday evenings at the Village of Westlakes clubhouse in McAllen. The three-hour rehearsals start with physical and vocal warmups, then into standing through sets of songs to be learned for the upcoming shows.

Helping to keep everything organized is Janet Doyle, the team leader for the past 10 years and often the emcee for performances. For the past 20 years she has been with the chorus, which was formed in November 1990; in 1991 it did its first annual show and went to its first regional competition. Most members come from communities from Mission to Weslaco, according to Secretary Joan Felton, a permanent resident at Royal Palms Park in Alamo. Having the Winter Texans is special. “We love them and welcome them,” she added.

The local award-winning chorus had its first concert of this season, a Veterans Day salute on Nov. 10 at a Mission resort park. Shirley Valentine, who handles bookings, said other public concerts include Christmas at the Tower (Theater) in Weslaco, 3 p.m. Dec. 1-3; the chorus’ annual appearance at the Hidalgo Festival of Lights at 8 p.m. Dec. 5; St. George Church International Festival in Pharr at 11 a.m. Dec. 9; the Westlakes Community Christmas event in McAllen at 6 p.m. Dec. 16, and the combined “Music for All Ages” concert show at the Center Church in Pharr at 7 p.m. March 2, 2018.

Dee Fritsch, a Winter Texan hailing from Buffalo, N.Y., and staying at Bentsen Grove Park in Palmview, has been singing bass for 20 years with MVC, which comes on top of 36 years with a Buffalo chorus. She noted her husband, Jack, is a barbershop singer in two choruses as well.

Fritsch enjoys being in the chorus, including the educational part as she doesn’t read music, but has been helped to find ways around that, including using technology to work on songs. The fellowship is special to the couple including the international flavor that created a long-lasting friendship with a Swedish couple they met during a competition. “You can travel anywhere and find help and support through the Sweet Adelines,” Fritsch said. “It’s one huge family.”

She is also the reason that Judy McCullough, a Winter Texan in Alamo’s Royal Palms Park who this summer moved to Warsaw, Mo., is part of the chorus. McCullough was looking for a barbershop opportunity and found it in 2004, when she met Fritsch across the border in Mexico, a year after coming to the Valley. McCullough said she was raised with music, her parents and brother singing and playing instruments after chores were over for the day on the family dairy farm in Kansas. The only singing part left for her was to harmonize. Later she sang five years in Topeka, Kan. with a group called the New Life Singers.

In addition to McCullough singing bass in the MVC, McCullough plays a variety of instruments including the trumpet, piano, organ, accordion, bass and steel guitars. For the past two years she’s played the trumpet with the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Concert Band as third chair and with the smaller Winter Texan Orchestra.

RGV Concert Band

When the combined concert comes next March, McCullough will have two parts, singing with the MVC and playing trumpet with the RGV Concert Band. Gene Goede, who was a band director for 33 years, has been conducting the RGV Band for the past 10 years. The band, which began with just a dozen players back in 1997, is made up primarily of Winter Texans from 17 states along with a few from Canada. The band now numbers between 55 and 65 musicians, which still includes a few charter members.

Goede was a band director in Minnesota public schools before coming to the Valley 26 years ago. The Minneapolis area resident, who has toured the world with his music, joined the band in December 1998, 10 months after it was formed. In addition to his conducting, Goede has also been a member of the McAllen Symphonic Band/Wind Ensemble for the past 12 years.

He noted 10 performers are still in the workforce, but the rest include retirees from all walks of life – some former band directors, and others who love to play an instrument in creating old time “concert in the park” type music. One of those who hadn’t played her baritone sax since high school, is Linda Ingram, a registered nurse from Smithville, Tenn. and staying at Lemon Tree Estates in Mission. She joined in 2007 and is the band’s secretary.

In preparing for the RGV Band’s series of winter concerts, rehearsals are held at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 1105 West Fern Ave. in McAllen, on Saturday mornings. The schedule involves seven or eight Sunday concerts a season. The band starts with a Christmas concert each year at the Lutheran church rehearsal site, which will be 3 p.m. Dec. 10. The rest of the all Sunday concerts, all at 3 p.m., include Aladdin Villas West in Mission on Jan. 1, 2018; First Presbyterian Church, Mission, Jan. 21; Alamo Palms Park in Alamo, Feb. 4; Snow to Sun Park in Weslaco, Feb. 18; Casa Del Valle Park in Alamo, March 4 and Paradise Resort Estates in Pharr, March 11. And on March 2 is the 7 p.m. combined concert at Center Church in Pharr.

Magic Valley Men of A-Chord

Another group taking part in the combined “Music for All Ages” show is the Magic Valley Men of A-Chord, a group of 40 to sometimes 60 barbershoppers, co-directed by Bob Lemkuil, from Neenah, Wisc., and Herb Edwards, from McComb, Ill..

Lemkuil, who stays at Aladdin Villas in Mission, has been with the chorus for 20 years and has been directing for six seasons, while Edwards, at Americana Resort in Mission, is in his third year of directing. Edwards, who retired in 2008, said the men are drawn together by the fact, “All of us love music and we get to entertain an audience once a week.”

Dennis Bush, president of the Men of A-Chord and a permanent McAllen resident, has been with the chorus for 20 years, although he has been singing barbershop for 40 years. His singing included a part in an award-winning quartet, “Vocal Majority,” while living in Dallas, and another group in Beaumont. “We need men who like to sing,” Bush said.

The local group started in 1992, with only eight guys and have become known for their red vests and bow ties. Many of the singers hold membership in the international Barbershop Harmony Society of some 35,000 members in the U.S. They also have formed various quartets to sing four-part harmony to entertain and compete. They rehearse Tuesday afternoons at St. Mark United Methodist Church in McAllen.

The Men of A-Chord do about 10 concerts a year at parks in the Valley and before other organizations starting in January 2018 through mid-March. The schedule begins at Heritage Square in Mission at 7 p.m. Jan. 27. The others are Alamo Rec-Veh Park in Alamo at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28; San Juan Gardens, San Juan at 7 p.m. Jan. 31; McAllen First Assembly Church in McAllen at 7 p.m. Feb. 8; Casa Del Valle Resort in Alamo at 7 p.m. Feb. 12; Country Side Park in Donna at 7 p.m. Feb. 14; Paradise Park Estate Resort in Pharr at 3 p.m. Feb. 18; The Grove in San Juan at 7 p.m. Feb. 27; Center Church in Pharr at 7 p.m. March 2; Benson Grove Resort in Mission at 7 p.m. March 4, and Siesta Retirement Village in Weslaco at 7 p.m. March 11.

Senior Ambassadors

The final group for the combined “Music for All Ages” concert on March 2 will be the Senior Ambassadors Men’s Chorus directed by Virgel Kroeker, a former Winter Texan but now a permanent resident in Mission’s Aladdin Villas since 2012. The former elementary music and high school choir director for 29 years in Minnesota, has been leading the Ambassadors for the past 10 seasons.

The Ambassadors were launched more than 30 years ago by 12 men from Bentsen Grove Resort in Mission who just wanted to sing. The chorus now numbers around 45, the majority Winter Texans, who have begun rehearsals on Friday afternoons at Bentsen Grove.

They will be offering a broad range of musical numbers, ranging from gospel to patriotic to golden oldies to Broadway, in a dozen concerts starting in January. The schedule is 2 p.m. Jan. 14 at Oleander Acres Park in Mission; 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at Seven Oaks Resort in Mission; 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at Texas Trails Resort in Pharr; 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Palm Shadows in Donna; 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at Trophy Gardens in Alamo; 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at Val Halla Park in Edinburg; 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Split Rail Park in Mission; 7 p.m. March 2 the combined show at Center Church in Pharr; 7 p.m. March 7 at Golf View Estates in Mission, and 6 p.m. March 11 at Alamo Palms in Alamo.

Top News

  • San Juan Gardens keeps residents active

    2018401 Shorts San Juan Gardens Ladies LuncheonSan Juan Gardens had many activities to celebrate the Winter Texan season, including a new event called Tape Measure Racing where races are held in double-elimination heats, and everyone is eligible to participate. The park also holds 30-minute low-impact exercise time every weekday for all ages, including a 90-year-old who gets… Read More +

  • Paradise Resort Estates raises money for charities

    20180401 Shorts Paradise Estates1Paradise Resort Estates in Pharr, held its annual Spaghetti Supper and Charity Auction on Friday, Feb. 16th.

    The resort’s Community Outreach Committee sponsored the event and proceeds are donated to local charities. This year’s proceeds totaled $7,000. Some of the items for auction included wood carvings and a… Read More +

  • Split Rail Party

    20180401 Shorts Split Rail Party1At the end of each season, the Split Rail Association at Split Rail RV Park in Mission throws a thank you party for its residents, filled with good food and entertainment. In mid-March, residents enjoyed a delicious catered lunch of grilled chicken, potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw and all the fixins and dessert.… Read More +

  • Southern Comfort RV Park hosts Bocce tournaments

    20180401 Shorts Southern Comfort Bocce JPGSouthern Comfort RV Park, located at 1501 S Airport Dr. in Weslaco has been running bocce ball tournaments for the past couple of years. What started as one bocce tournament in the park is now up to three and signs are that the growth is going to continue.

    Read More +

  • Winter Texans volunteer at Lutheran church

    20180322 El Buen Pastor IMG 5095For nearly a decade, Stan Kirschbaum and Bill White of Hidden Valley Ranch, and Ralph Freudenberg of Mission West RV Park have spearheaded projects at El Buen Pastor Lutheran Church.

    The congregation from Westminster Lutheran Fellowship at Pleasant Valley Ranch have collected money and, most recently,… Read More +

  • La Floresta holds tournament championship golf event

    20180315 LaFloresta Golf GAIL CATRON MENS CHAMPIONGail Catron, Men’s Champion

    La Floresta Park and Golf Course held its version of the PGA Championship March 5-8 with 32 men and 24 ladies competing in the annual event. La Floresta is located at 4140 La Floresta Road in Mercedes.

    Read More +

  • The Power of One

    20180308 Palm Resaca Single Ladiesbest2The vitality of any Winter Texan Park is the result of the positive efforts and friendly interactions of its residents. A small core of single women in Palm Resaca Park have made a tremendous effect on helping to make the park run smoothly.

    Single women account for more than 10 percent of park residents. These women have involved themselves in leadership… Read More +

  • Mexican Whistling Ducks enjoy Palm Resaca Park

    20180301 Whistling Ducks mexicanducks2Marching single file, seemingly with purpose. They are not soldiers mustering on the parade grounds or cows heading home at feeding time. They are black-bellied whistling ducks.

    As a Winter Texan from Canada, I find the birds of Southern Texas fascinating. Dozens of Whistlers dwell along the Resaca de la Guerra that flows past our mobile home at Palm Resaca Park in… Read More +

  • Canada Day celebrated at Riverside Club

    20180306 CanadaDay Riverside GU 1889Hundreds of Canadians showed up at the Riverside Club in Mission on Tuesday, March 6 to join in the fun of the annual Canada Day celebration. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the music provided by the Riverside Club Band led by Randy Dupuis and enjoying drinks and food. They were a number of… Read More +

  • Encore brings tribute concerts to RGV resorts

    20180329 Encore Abba Fab 2676The 2017-18 Winter Texan season is fast coming to a close – and Encore is quickly giving Winter Texans some great reasons to look forward to next year.

    The management group that oversees more than 200 RV resorts in 21 states has announced five tribute bands coming… Read More +

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • All
  • Border
  • Charity
  • Free Health Care
  • Groceries
  • Grocery Stores
  • HEB
  • Immigration
  • Mission
  • Operation Lonestar
  • Ribbon Cutting
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Sharyland
  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
load more hold SHIFT key to load all load all