Ann MacDonald began conducting choirs in Bellingham in 2006 because, she says, she wanted to “fill in the ‘gaps’ in the adult community choral scene,” so she focused on women’s choirs under her umbrella group, Bellingham Sings.
“The first choir I put together was a young women’s choir, Dolcissima, that went on to perform at Carnegie Hall in 2007,” she says.
In February 2007, she created Allegra Women’s Vocal Ensemble. The Whatcom Sound Jazz Singers, another women’s vocal group, formed later that fall.
Both Allegra and the jazz singers perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at the elegant Lairmont Manor in a benefit for Bellingham Sings.
There were a few years, MacDonald says, when she had five choirs running at one time: a men’s ensemble, Norwesters; and another women’s choir, Sarabande.
Over the past nine years, her groups have performed more than 50 concerts for residents in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and Chelan counties, and in Canada.
“I have also offered community group vocal classes on a regular basis through Bellingham Sings to singers of all ages and levels,” MacDonald says. “I just love seeing others light up with the knowledge and experience that singing does not have to be difficult, but can be freeing when you know how to use a healthy vocal technique.”
There have been many memorable concerts with the choirs, MacDonald says.
“The Christmas concerts featuring Canada’s quintet A Touch of Brass were a highlight for me and our audiences,” she says. “The Women’s Choral Festival we hosted in 2012 brought together almost 300 singers from throughout the Pacific Northwest.”
“The joint jazz concerts with Pacific Northwest jazz artists Greta Matassa, Jennifer Scott, Lynden’s male vocal quintet Take Five, and Cheryl Hodge and Cheryl Jewell were great fun as well.”
Bellingham Sings annual FAME concert (Female Artists for Music Education) has featured Bellingham talents Amber Darland and Andrea Rackl, and Corinna Keeling of Vancouver, B.C., a few of those who volunteer their talents for the event, she says.
And, MacDonald says, the annual “Wine, Women and Song” concert at Lairmont Manor holds a special place in her heart.
“It is our very own ‘house party’ with all of our cherished friends and family in an elegant and intimate setting,” she says.
This year, Bellingham pianist and vocalist Hadassah McGill will open the concert at 7 p.m., performing traditional jazz standards.
The event is organized, run and performed by the choristers, MacDonald says, with their family members helping too.
“Every year it gets better and better,” she says.
Fans of the ensembles may be a bit sad at the concert because MacDonald will be pursuing more graduate studies beginning in January and so will be cutting back on her time with the choirs.
“The Whatcom Sounds Jazz Singers will be in good hands under the direction of Cheryl Hodge; and Hadassah will co-direct Allegra with me,” she says.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19
Where: Lairmont Manor, 405 Fieldston Road
Cost: $25; includes a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres
Also: Both groups sing Dec. 8 and 9 at Lighthouse Mission, and at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall.