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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2018 2 years ago

Choral Artists of Sarasota soloist makes joyful noise

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Amy Jo Connours will lift up her voice at the choral's “Saints and Singers” concert April 15.
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

Amy Jo Connours loves to sing. And she’s good at it.

Officially, she’s a mezzo-soprano. But her voice can actually dive to a low contralto — a range of two-and-a-half octaves. “I tend to have a very warm tone in the lower range,” Connours says. “It’s a nice blending voice in an ensemble.”

If you’re an area music lover, chances are you’ve heard her. Connours is a beloved solo performer, a cantor for Sacred Heart Church in Bradenton, a frequent guest artist for the Sarasota Artist Series Concerts, and an alto section leader for Choral Artists of Sarasota.

Joseph Holt is Choral Artists’ artistic director. He says Connours is a powerful singer, and her power is more than technical ability.

“Amy’s vocal strengths are many,” he says. “She runs the gamut from classical singer to jazz singer. She’s also a very committed performer. Whenever she’s singing, she throws herself into it 100%. Her stage presence is never less than electrifying.”

Connours will lift up her voice April 15 at Choral Artists’ “Saints and Singers” concert. Her saintly selections will include John Rutter’s arrangements of classic spirituals, including “Motherless Child,” “Steal Away,” and “Deep River.” The rest of the concert will showcase Broadway showstoppers, Cole Porter classics and other more worldly fare.

Her favorite musical genre?

“I love passionate opera songs,” Connours says. “I especially love gospel music and spirituals.” She adds that the stories behind the classic African-American spirituals move her heart and soul.

“Spirituals tell the story of liberation from bondage — both physical and spiritual,” she says. “They’re songs of freedom and the struggle for freedom. It’s a very American story, and that’s what I love about it.”

Connours’ love affair with singing is all about storytelling. “I have a passion for honest communication,” she says. “A song can express far more than spoken words. That’s especially true for gospel music.”

Amy Jo Connours will audition for anything — even men’s solos. Courtesy photo

Although Connours has her favorite styles, she loves to sing, period. And when it comes to musical genres, she thinks pigeonholes are for pigeons.

“I audition for everything,” she says happily. “I don’t limit myself to certain styles of music. I’ve even auditioned for men’s solos and adjusted them with passion.”

Connours’ versatility flows from ability. And a healthy dose of fearlessness.

“Singing talent isn’t enough,” she says. “You have to make a connection. When you sing, you have to be able to project your music to the audience and not bury your head in the songbook.”

Choral Artists is a professional chorus with a high standard that she meets thanks to years of training and a good start during her childhood in Sarasota. She notes that a host of “wonderful music teachers” nurtured her budding talent. “I’ve been singing since I was a young girl,” she says. “But I didn’t start singing professionally until I moved back to Florida in 2004.”

Her advice to talented amateur singers who want to follow her example?

“Make a joyful noise,” she says. “I say sing! And find a place to do it. Our area has so many wonderful choral opportunities including church choirs, community choirs, women’s choirs  and men’s choirs.”

Connours adds that an eager audience is out there, whatever your level of singing ability. “You can brighten someone’s day if you’re part of a chorus visiting a retirement community or nursing home,” she says. “Your gift is valuable. Just find a place and you can fill a niche.”

This Sarasota songbird has found a niche of her own — and intends to keep singing her heart out.

“I’ve been blessed to do what I love for a living,” she says. “I’m thankful every day, and I never take it for granted.”

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