Hitting all the high notes
To start each rehearsal, Yankee leads the singers through breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups. “I believe that they appreciate me helping them to improve.”
The chorale got its start in 1964 when two Falmouth men—the Reverend William Campbell, an organist; and John Gerry-Karanjes, a choir director—and 13 musicians performed Handel’s Messiah at the Lawrence School. It was so successful that the choir continued performing and gave itself a name: the Falmouth Interfaith Choir. The choir became a fixture in Falmouth’s Christmas/Hanukkah and Easter/Passover seasons, performing at various churches in the town. “They always put on something classical—Bach, Beethoven, Mozart,” says the chorale’s historian, Doris Pierce, who lives in Pocasset. “They drew in huge crowds and got rave reviews.”
In 1991 Frederick Johnson, a music teacher at Falmouth High, was named director of the Interfaith Choir. Johnson stayed with the choir for the next 17 years as it flourished in the town. In 2004, the name was changed to the Falmouth Chorale, reflecting its rise from church choir to community singing group.
Yankee came on board in 2007. “We had sent out an ad for an intern,” Pierce recalls. “John answered, and we chose him because he assured us he would live in Falmouth, and that the Falmouth Chorale would be his primary reason for being here.”
Yankee completed his undergraduate studies as a trumpeter at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, a division of Johns Hopkins University, and earned a master’s degree in performance in trumpet from the Yale School of Music. Before relocating to Falmouth, he lived in San Diego and was artistic director of the San Diego Choral Union and Children’s Choir. His contract with the Falmouth Chorale began as a seven-month position as a guest conductor, and he was subsequently invited to be the new artistic director. Yankee is also music director of the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, choral director at Falmouth Academy, and the founding artistic director of the Cape Cod Children’s Chorus.
The passion Yankee and the Falmouth Chorale members feel for singing and sharing music with the community is evident at every performance. Concert logistics coordinator Dave Mills, who lives in Sandwich and works at Joint Base Cape Cod as a facility manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been singing with the chorale for six years, and singing choral music for more than 40 years. He says the opportunity to perform great music for an appreciative audience is a feeling that’s hard to beat. “It’s the best natural high you can ever have,” says Mills, “singing to an audience and seeing everyone go away smiling.”
A native Cape Codder, Marina Davalos is a freelance writer who lives in Cotuit.
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