The Beat Goes On with The Choral Society of Pensacola

Choral Society of Pensacola keeps the concerts going strong

The Choral Society of Pensacola has a long 86-plus-year history. While COVID-19 certainly took its toll on the organization over the past two years, the group has kept the music going strong. Choral Society of Pensacola’s Executive Director Charlie Smoke and Artistic Director Peter Steenblik shared how the organization has been able to navigate the pandemic to keep the calendar of events packed with anticipated events.

Q: The pandemic obviously has impacted the organization–like it has everyone—but the Choral Society of Pensacola was determined to press on and keep events on the calendar. Why?

A: I recently heard a quote that says, “Creativity is survival and when we are able to create, that’s what keeps us moving forward.” That’s what we’ve done. We’re proud of our history—the organization wasn’t even interrupted during WWII—so we chose to keep it going through COVID-19. We made lots of changes, such as reducing the number of people together in one space and hosting everything outdoors, even on the coldest of nights, but we’re proud that we’ve had continuous music throughout the pandemic. We’re now able to move events back inside–still implementing CDC guidelines, of course—and we’re very excited about that.

Q: That’s perfect timing for some upcoming events—what is next on the calendar?

A: We have two concerts on the calendar to finish out the season. The first is Stage and Screen, which is going to be celebrating songs from musical theatre and movies. Scheduled for Sunday, February 20, the concert will be at 2:00 pm, and this will be the first afternoon performance we’ve hosted in quite a while. We’re excited about the many familiar songs from popular shows that we have on the list—such as Godspell, Les Miserables, Sunday in the Park with George, West Side Story, Beaches, and Working Girl—as well as some not-so-familiar songs that we think everyone will enjoy as well. The Society’s women’s ensemble, under the direction of Isabelle Peterson, will be performing a set featuring music from Wicked, The Wizard of Oz, and The Sound of Music too.

Q: What is the second event to round out the season?

A: It’s called Triptych, and it’s going to be on the evening of Sunday, May 15. For a concert, we’re typically with a string orchestra or a traditional orchestra, but for this event, we’ll have eight percussions. This will be a great contrast from our March performance as this will be a little more modern. It’s sure to be an exciting and unique event.

Q: These two events sound spectacular! How can someone get involved if they want to get in on the musical action?

A: We host auditions each semester—in the fall and in the spring—so anyone interested has opportunities then to become part of the group. And a great aspect of our organization is that you don’t have to live here full time to partake. We have many snowbirds who sing with us when they are here. While singers can join us for a full season, which runs August through May, they can also join half a season. That’s a great opportunity for snowbirds and other long-term visitors to join in.