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Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers celebrate 10th anniversary

By Staff | Feb 9, 2011

Toasting to a terrific tenth season are island members of the Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers Fred and Marj Nordstrom, Gail Pilibosian, Sheila Hoen, Judie Gorden, President Jill Janda-Kanner and Fred and Mary Bondurant, pictured in the labyrinth at the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ where the Mastersingers will present “The True Story of Cinderella” to raise funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Of the more than 75 members of the Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers, only 10 are Sanibel residents. But tomorrow, these talented islanders will host their fellow Mastersingers at the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ for a special fundraising performance.

The program, “The True Story of Cinderella,” is just one of the many performances the Mastersingers will present throughout the year to celebrate their 10th anniversary season.

“One of the main reasons the Mastersingers formed was because they wanted to be to be a stand alone choral organization that was not affiliated with a symphony orchestra,” said Mastersingers President and soprano Jill Janda-Kanner, noting that islander Jim George, president of the Mastersingers from 2002 to 2011, is the one who made the chorus what it is today. “We are a combination of professional singers, former professional singers and amateurs who just love to sing quality music.”

Mastersingers Vice President Robert Beane, a tenor and one of the founders and original members of the group, is one of those former professionals, but said an intense passion for music and bit of talent are the biggest factors in making a model Mastersinger.

“Not only will you find people of all different professions and backgrounds, but people with different training and ability levels,” Beane said. “A chorus is a group of people that want to perform music and hopefully communicate it at a high level — that doesn’t mean they all have to have extensive musical training, they might have an accurate choral voice. You hope to have that variety. Everybody can’t be soloists — you have to work towards a group sound. We have a really nice blend of folks who do exactly that, who are more concerned about the whole.”

The Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers will make a special performance on Feb. 12 on Sanibel to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

And while the Mastersingers have so far enjoyed a very successful decade of performing, their debut concert was born out of a national tragedy.

“Our first rehearsal was on September 10 of 2001, and the world changed the next day. So, our first concert was organized as a tribute to America. We sang Mozart’s Requiem and several other smaller pieces and people were just overflowing the Barbara B. Mann hall,” Beane said. “It was a wonderful event and it was a time when people needed to come together. It gave the Mastersingers a kind of identity, not just as a group, but as an organization that wants to give back to the community. That’s always something we’ve been conscious of.”

Over the years, the Mastersingers have hosted several fundraisers to benefit various local organizations, including the Harry Chapin Foodbank, the Fort Myers Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity and the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW).

But this year’s benefit will be different in many ways.

Not only will the fundraising performance be held on the island for the first time, but a portion of the proceeds will benefit a cause that strikes very close to the Mastersingers’ heart.

“The board knew that one of our members was going to be going through some cancer treatment, so we decided, in her honor, to donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure this year,” Beane said. “Breast cancer is such a horrible disease, and this is such a small drop in the bucket, but we want to recognize that our friends are struggling with these things and we want to show that we not only support them, but that they’re part of our family and it’s important to us to fight these issues together.”

For their 2011 fundraiser, the Mastersingers will present “The True Story of Cinderella,” a humorous look at the life of the titular fairytale princess, written by Warren Martin for the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J.

“Our artistic director Jeff Faux is a graduate of the Westminster Choir College and Robert Beane had done this show once before down in Bonita Springs, and everyone who saw it thought it was such a fabulous, fun, entertaining performance, that we decided to make it our fundraiser this year,” Janda-Kanner said. “Our hope is to fill the Congregational Church for the event.”

But the fundraiser is only a small part of the Mastersingers 10th season.

“This being our 10th anniversary, we needed to do something special and we also wanted to combine our past into our performance. So, we decided we wanted to do the greatest choral works in history,” Beane said. “Handel’s Messiah speaks very well to today, especially if it’s performed in a way that brings the music to life. Handel does a lot of tone painting throughout the Messiah and so, if you’re paying attention and listening to the music and reading the text, you can’t help but be taken away by it. If it’s done well, you’ll be exhausted. I guarantee it will be an amazing event!”

The Mastersingers are nearing the middle of their season, but there are still plenty of concerts coming up, including two more performances of Handel’s complete Messiah in April and a very special performance later this year.

“It seemed very fitting that we should revisit the first program the Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers ever performed,” Janda-Kanner said. “So, the 10 year anniversary of September 11 will be marked by the Mastersingers with a performance of Mozart’s Requiem with the Naples Phil Orchestra and Chorale.”

And though the Mastersingers officially formed just 24 hours before one of America’s darkest days, Beane said he hopes the next decade will be bright — both for the chorus and the community.

“We’re as much a family as we are a chorus, and if i were to look into a crystal ball, I would hope it would show us continuing to support each other and giving back to the community.”

“The True Story of Cinderella” will take place on Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ at 7 p.m.

General admission tickets are $20 and a “Glass Slipper Ticket” — which includes reserved seating, an after-concert reception and a chance to meet the Mastersingers — is $50. Call 239-275-5557 for ticket information.

For more information about the Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers and upcoming performances, go to www.MastersingersFM.com‘>www.MastersingersFM.com.