The Heart of America Men’s Chorus has a knack for matching music with causes dear to members’ hearts.
A few years ago, for example, the group belted out Broadway tunes to benefit the high school fine arts department in tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kan. More recently, a patriotically themed concert raised money for the Wichita Fraternal Order of Police.
The chorus – made up of 30 talented amateur singers – is at it again this weekend, using a production based on a well-known children’s book to help the Kansas Children’s Service League and its anti-bullying hotline.
“For the Child in All of Us,” the first half of which is based on “Oliver Button Is a Sissy,” will be performed Saturday and Sunday at Newman University. The show’s second half features hits from Disney movies.
“We always try to do something that benefits the community,” said Eric Nachtigal, who’s the group’s president, one of its second tenors and an elementary school counselor. “One of the components of this concert is a message of bullying prevention, acceptance and love.”
Although all of the chorus’ productions are strictly G-rated, Nachtigal said the current one is even more family-oriented. “It’s geared toward children. We’re encouraging parents to bring their children.”
“Oliver Button,” by Tomie dePaola, tells the story of a boy who must deal with being an outsider because he’d rather paint and tap dance than play sports. The first half of the concert alternates narration of the book (by chorus member Bill Loyd) with songs performed by the chorus.
Nachtiger said he first saw the show performed by the Heartland Men’s Chorus in Kansas City. “A number of us went and fell in love with it, and had the dream of bringing it back to Wichita.”
“It’s all about accepting people for who they are and their unique qualities,” he added. “It’s just a wonderful message for everybody.”
The concert’s second half is filled with songs from Disney movies, including “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story,” “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from “Mary Poppins,” “Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King” and “Hallelujah” from “Shrek.”
“There’s a nice mix of newer and older Disney,” Nachtigal said.
The idea, he said, is to “bring the audience to a point where they can imagine that everything is possible and that we’re all wonderful creatures.”
With an intermission, the show runs about 75 minutes.
Through a partnership with Arts Partners of Wichita, the chorus also performed two sold-out shows Thursday for local schoolchildren.
The chorus was formed in 2002 by five men. The group stages three shows a year, during the spring, summer and holiday season. They’re accompanied by pianists and directed by Deanne Zogleman, director of Newman’s music department. Members practice once a week at Newman.
“They’re just community members who come from all different facets of life,” Nachtigal said. “There are a lot of teachers and businessmen.”
There are no “tryouts” and anyone is welcome to join, he said.
In addition to music, Nachtigal said members share a love for their community.
“We all share that common interest. It’s something we’re really passionate about.”