Allison Beavan stands on stage adjusting her microphone: “Check one, check two.” After a deep breath and a “haaa!” she flips the page and, facing the 118 members of the Outer Cape Chorale who are seated around a piano, she raises her hands to conduct.
Beavan’s silver earrings and black glasses bounce around as she points skyward and then down at her sheet music in rapid-fire jabs: “In excel-sis! In excel-sis.” The voices stop on a dime as she brings her arms down to her sides.
The Outer Cape Chorale was founded in 2002 by Jon Arterton with a devoted group of singers and supporters. It has always been a welcoming, non-auditioned chorus, Beavan says, and “Jon brought in a humongous number of people before he moved.”
Beavan, who has directed Nauset Regional High School’s chorus, taught choral conducting workshops, and performed locally as a soprano soloist, is now a musician in residence at the First Congregational Church in Chatham. She became the chorale’s artistic director in 2016 when Arterton and his husband, James Mack, moved to St. Petersburg, Fla.
The group’s membership has continued to grow since then, both in numbers and artistic accomplishment, Beavan says, with the participation of singers from towns across the Outer and Lower Cape. They have fun and strive for excellence — although “you don’t always get those two things together,” she says.
Singers are seated with their sheet music nestled inside folders. Some have highlighted their scores and have pencils at the ready. String player Tim Dickey strums an upbeat rhythm on the charango, an Andean instrument, and the chorale joins in response: we are live at the Truro Community Center on Standish Way — the chorale’s rehearsal space.
As Gloria flows through Beavan’s hands and arms, a man in navy suspenders asks a reporter standing behind him to move — “You’re affecting my sound.” The chorale ends its last measure with a resounding “Amen!”
“Oh, wow! Thank you, Robert,” says Beavan. Robert Grady gets a round of applause for his solo in the Misa Criolla. “He always gets standing ovations for his solos,” Beavan says later. “He sounds like Pavarotti.”
Now he’s warming up for the world premiere of his own Reindeer Cantata, commissioned by the chorale. He approaches the stage, Dickey plays a chord on the ukulele, and the chorale rises. Adjustments are in order: “Always move to where you can see me,” Beavan tells the singers. “Don’t be scared of challenging measures,” she says. “Here we go!”
Pianist Arthur McManus glances up at Beavan, then quickly back at the music as song fills the room. “That’s what I’m talking about!” says Beavan.
After the rehearsal, Beavan explains how it is that the group sounds so good. “Anyone who wants to sing with us can sing with us,” she says. But there is a smaller group of 20 more experienced singers who have to demonstrate excellence in auditions, and the chorale has section leaders; when a member is struggling, someone with more training can stand next to that person and help out. Some members have worked with Beavan individually, too. She maintains a private voice studio at her home in Orleans. Her goal, she says, is for everyone to feel relaxed and comfortable in the ensemble.
Logistical questions abound during a 10-minute break in the rehearsal — the Chorale’s last of 12 leading up to the dress rehearsal for three hour-long concerts, “Glorious!” at Provincetown’s Town Hall and Nauset Middle School. What happens if someone is stuck in a traffic jam? Can we find 10 volunteer ushers? Are arrangements in place for the instrumentalists?
Board president Peter Tager is among the singers. “We do our concerts for free,” he says, “because we think music is for everyone.”
In case anyone is nervous about the upcoming performance, Beavan has something to say to that. “Just love what you’re doing,” she tells the choristers. “We’ve been coming here week after week.” The chorale begins singing together in February each year.
“The love we feel for this music is palpable, and we have to share that,” she says. “We are together in this music, and that’s all that matters. Give the people coming out, and yourselves, some joy.”
The chorale plunges into its next number: “Since I Laid My Burden Down.”
The event: The Outer Cape Chorale presents “Glorious!”
The time: Friday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 9 at 5 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 10 at 3 p.m.
The place: Friday and Saturday at Provincetown Town Hall, Sunday at Nauset Middle School, Orleans
The cost: Free