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Sharing holiday cheer: Greenwood vocalist expands her range

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Suellen Williams rehearses with the St. Rose of Lima church choir Sunday morning.
Suellen Williams rehearses with the St. Rose of Lima church choir Sunday morning. PHOTO BY JOE SABA

For two weeks, the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir has been practicing for its annual holiday extravaganza.

The 150-member group has smoothed out the crescendos and sharpened the staccato of carols such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World” and “Jingle Bells.” They’ve blended the sound of “White Christmas” and added some snap to other songs.

Many members of the choir have been performing in the annual “Festival of Carols” for years. But for Franklin resident Suellen Williams, it will be her first opportunity to sing with the Indianapolis choir.

Williams is a new member of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, a group of volunteer singers who focus on classical and sacred music.

Williams, a registered nurse, has been singing since she was a child, performing in choirs while she was in grade school and high school.

That participation carried over to her adult life. She is a weekly participant in the choir at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, where she loves the timbre and power of praise music.

If you go

What: Festival of Carols

First performance: 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Scottish Rite Cathedral, 650 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis

Second performance: 8 p.m. Dec. 22 at the Center for the Performing Arts, 355 City Center Drive, Carmel

What: A holiday-themed performance featuring the 150-member symphonic choir, as well as the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Circle City Ringers handbell choir, and the Butler University men’s a cappella group Out of the Dawg House.

Tickets: $20 to $38

Information: indychoir.org

But she was looking for some variety.

That led her to the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir.

“I always wanted to sing more classical music than I would in a church choir. I still wanted to be active in the church choir, though,” she said.

Williams sings soprano one, and her participation helps the choir hit extremely high notes, delivering the powerful pitch that a good choir needs, executive director Michael Pettry said.

“She sings in the rafters,” he said.

Williams just completed a big performance with the choir, singing Brahms’ Requiem in a two-night show at Indianapolis’ Hilbert Circle Theater. The lead-up to the show was intense, starting with weekly practices before transitioning to three-hour daily rehearsals the week before the concert.

Traveling to Butler University, where the choir practices, was wearing.

Still, the experience of singing in such a big group was thrilling for Williams.

“I loved it, even if it was a little draining. The whole week before, my brain was being overrun by Brahms. Now that place in my brain is taken over by Christmas music,” she said.

The Festival of Carols features unique musicians and singers belting out some of the holiday’s most beloved songs, all with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir leading the performance.

Talents such as the Circle City Ringers handbell choir and Out of the Dawg House, Butler’s a capella group, will join the choir throughout the night, Pettry said.

Attendees will get to hear the songs they recognize done in unique and intriguing ways.

“There’s so much good Christmas music, and there’s never enough time to hear or sing it all,” Williams said. “You can never have too much Christmas music.”

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