On a rainy Tuesday evening in Grafton, the basement of St. Joseph's Catholic Church fills with members of the Ozaukee Chorus.
It is a predominantly older group, but what stands out is the level of youthful exuberance and genuine excitement to begin rehearsing for the spring season, specifically the spring concert May 4 at Grafton High School.
Since its creation in 1975, the Ozaukee Chorus has served as both a musical outlet for its members and a staple of entertainment for the county. Helen Waldschmidt, one of the founding members of the group, recalled her desire to join a chorus after moving from Minnesota. There were no organized groups in the county at the time and she did not want to travel to Milwaukee, so she reached out to the Chamber of Commerce assistance.
Eventually, Waldschmidt came into contact with the then-head coach of the Grafton High School football team, who also also happened to be the choral director for the school.
"I'm pretty sure he was able to get some of his players involved in the school choir," joked Waldschmidt, who took out ads in local papers encouraging people to come out to the first official rehearsal of the Ozaukee Chorus.
On that first night in 1975, around 110 people showed up before settling at a core group of 90 members several weeks later. Today the chorus usually has about 75 to 80, many of whom have been members since the first practice.
According to Waldschmidt, members come in with varying degrees of experience with singing, whether they be amateurs or experts. The task of blending these voices together falls upon music director Tina Davis, who joined the group 14 years ago, serving as director for the last four. A former music therapist who now resides in West Bend, Davis' biggest challenge as director is maintaining a consistent number of members.
"Some members leave for Florida right after our Christmas show," joked Davis, who encourages members to recruit friends or anyone they know who enjoys singing.
Davis is also responsible for choosing the songs that the group will sing each season.
"Rather than doing formal or traditional choir songs, I try to choose songs that will allow our members to have the most fun," Davis explained. "One season was all 60s music, so our members dressed up in 60s attire for the show and everyone in attendance said it was one of the best shows we ever did."
The theme for this year's spring concert will be "feel-good American music," which Davis hopes will be a welcome relief after a tense election season.
It is this commitment to good music, along with the good people that comprise this group, that Davis and Waldschmidt both agree make the Ozaukee Chorus special.