Fast Chat: North Fork Chorale director marks 20 years

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Lois Ross of Southold has directed the North Fork Chorale for the past 20 years.

For the past two decades, Lois Ross of Southold has served as director of the North Fork Chorale, a 40-plus-member singing group continuing a more than 75-year musical tradition.

Ms. Ross joined the group after moving to the area in 1973. With a long history in music education and performing, she took the director position 20 years later.

“I think I was born singing. I just always was,” Ms. Ross said. “Even when I was in elementary school when we didn’t have music class I would be bossing my friends around and organizing them to sing during any free time we had.”

She took her passion for song to the next level, earning a degree in music at the University of Michigan, and taught for a short time thereafter. She eventually found her way to the North Fork.

Q: What do you remember about your favorite chorale performance?

A: The program that we did last spring was, I think, one of the best shows we have ever done. It was a Broadway style show and I had invited high school students who performed in the various musicals at their high schools that spring to give them an opportunity to come perform. We worked this into the program and it was just so much fun. It was interesting for the kids to see there are adults who are performing and it was interesting for the adults to hear our future — how good some of these students were. They just put together this fabulous show.

Q: Over the past 20 years, has the style or way you perform music changed?

A: I try to mix up different styles because I don’t think it’s a lot of fun for the neither the audience or for the group to do the same types of songs each time. Sometimes we have classical music and sometimes we have lighter music — it keeps [the members] thinking.

Every concert needs to have something that’s funny and something that’s serious. If I don’t look out and see someone wiping away a tear at some point I haven’t really done my job.

Q: Can you share a funny moment or mishap that has happened during a performance or practice?

A: Things certainly have happened … one time at the Orient Congregational Church in the early days of my directing career, it was just one of those days when I walked in and everything seemed to be sort of exploding around me. They decided to tape that concert for television, for channel 21. They were setting up the cameras, it was pouring down rain, and for some reason the risers hadn’t arrived yet. As people began carrying in these wet risers I started to walk towards the back of the church. This little woman stood up and said, ‘wow, I bet had you known there were going to be television cameras here, you would have gotten your roots done.’

Q: What is the most rewarding part of being the chorale director?

A: Doing something like this or, say, doing a play, you develop such a feeling of community with the [members]. You’re a big family and seeing them start out stumbling along and then, by the time you get to the end, they are just doing it beautifully and smiling away. You get this wonderful feeling, that wow, we have come together to create something beautiful here.

The North Fork Chorale will be performing at 8 p.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church of Southold; 8 p.m. Saturday at Mattituck Presbyterian Church; and 3 p.m. Sunday at Orient Congregational Church. Tickets will be sold at the door.

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