The anxiety was palpable during Tuesday night’s Chorus of the Keys rehearsal at First Baptist Church.
Under the direction of Don Clause — “Coacher Don” to the chorus’ 140 members — the singers belted out Broadway show tunes from their spring concert program, “Broadway’s Fabulous Ladies.”
From the way Clause paced, one hand curled into a fist and the other gesturing wildly, it was clear the retired real-estate developer and former director of New York City’s Big Apple Chorus meant business.
“He’s one of the best and most experienced barbershop chorus directors around,” says Bob Amer, a tenor in the chorus and the group’s marketing director. “He’s a taskmaster and he drills us, but he’s fun.”
The chorus will perform this weekend at Riverview High School’s new 1,100-seat performing-arts center, which it hopes will set a precedent for other local performing-arts organizations in need of a venue.
The chorus, which held its annual spring concert at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall for years, can no longer afford the Van Wezel’s higher rental fees, a fact that many local arts groups have had to face, including the Jazz Club of Sarasota.
“I think we’ve taken a leadership role by going to Riverview,” Amer says. “We’re showing how much we love this community and how much we want to remain in this community.”
Chorus of the Keys was founded in 1949 by a Boston barbershopper named John Whelan. Its members live up and down the Gulf Coast. Clause lives in The Villages, in Lake County, and drives two hours every Tuesday to rehearsal in downtown Sarasota.
The Barbershop Harmony Society’s 2004 and 2009 Florida State Champions, Chorus of the Keys was one of two choruses in the state to qualify this year for the 2010 International Barbershop Convention.
It’s been six years since the organization qualified for the worldwide competition, which will be held June 28 to July 4, in Philadelphia. One Voice, the group’s breakout competitive chorus, which exists solely to compete in Sunshine District contests and international qualifiers, is hoping to bring home even bigger accolades.
“We’re out to make sure we don’t come in second to anybody,” Amer says.
Conact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected].
IF YOU GO
Sarasota Chorus of the Keys will perform “Broadway’s Fabulous Ladies” at 2:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, March 6 and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 7, at the Riverview High School Performing Arts Center. Also on the bill are performances by the comedic South Florida quartet Hot Shots and the Miami-based foursome Fortissimo, as well as a guest appearance by Soundsations, a Sweet Adeline quartet, singing songs from “The Music Man.” For more information, call 484-7589 or visit www.chorusofthekeys.org.