By Stephanie Tipple, Contributing Writer
Celebrating its 17th anniversary this year, the New Dominion Choraliers of Prince William County, Inc., (NDC) is a melodic ﬁxture in Prince William. The adult chorus, which is based in Woodbridge, includes amateur and professional musicians who together give musically diverse performances to audiences in the local area and surrounding regions.
Director Katherine Nelson-Tracey founded NDC in 1996. She is an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), where she teaches voice and piano at the college’s Woodbridge campus. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Music Education and a master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the University of North Dakota. In 1998 Nelson-Tracey earned a second master’s degree, in Choral Conducting, from George Mason University.
“Things evolved from there,” she said of her experience and motivation to make the New Dominion Choraliers a success.
The chorus got its name because “Virginia is called the Old Dominion, isn’t it? And we decided we were the new start, so we were the New Dominion, and the Choraliers is the name of the select [singing] group in my high school. So it’s sort of a nostalgic name for me,” Nelson-Tracey explained.
The NDC is committed to being a top-notch choir group, she said. “We are always striving to be better singers and better musicians,” Nelson-Tracey stated.
Choraliers Reach out to Community
The nonproﬁt choral group also makes it a priority to be involved in the community. “One of the things that is very important to our group is our outreach to the community,” said Gerri Regazzi, a founding member and group vice president.
The NDC often hosts charity fundraising performances and participates in concerts with other musical groups raising funds for local charities, Regazzi said.
The Freedom Program, a local outreach for military veterans in Prince William County, is among community efforts the NDC is involved in. The chorus has also performed at Historic Occoquan and at area hospitals and retirement communities, including Sentara Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge and Westminster at Lake Ridge Continuing Care Retirement Community.
Additionally, Nelson-Tracey said the group itself is a way of reaching out to residents through music. “The New Dominion Choraliers is my gift back to the community,” she explained.
A Diverse Musical Style
The chorus uses several different musical styles to make its performances fun for the singers and audience alike. “We’ve done everything from classical to jazz, to spirituals, Broadway, doo-wop. You name it, we’ve probably done it,” Regazzi said.
For example, themed “Love and the Spirit,” the NDC’s spring concert this year, at Porter Traditional Elementary School in Woodbridge, included a variety of musical pieces expressing different types of love. Partnering with local string, bass and percussion players and the school chorus, the ensemble performed several “heartsongs” from young American poet Mattie J.T. Stepanek, who died of muscular dystrophy in 2004, a month shy of his 14th birthday.
Audition Groups Provide Vocal Variety
Within the New Dominion Choraliers are two special choir groups that members must audition for to join, Nelson-Tracey said. These groups participate with the full choir in yearly concerts and community performances. One group is named “Voci d’Angeli” (“voices of angels” in Italian), an all-women’s chorale. The other is the “NDC Singers,” a mixed-gender group.
Having audition groups singing alongside the full choir, and in solo ensembles, adds vocal variety and richness to many of the pieces the New Dominion Choraliers perform, said Nelson- Tracey. “A choral [arrangement], if it’s done beginning to end with the same voices over and over, could tend to sound all the same. We like to do songs that are of many diﬀerent styles, and we like to vary the thickness of the choir with our different audition groups,” she explained.
Chorus members also vary their attire during each performance to ﬁt the occasion, Regazzi said. During formal concerts, male members wear tuxedos, while women in the chorus wear full-length skirts and sequined jackets.
The NDC meets each Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Bridge United Methodist Church in Lake Ridge, where 60 to 70 singers gather to practice for performances at various community events and the Choraliers’ two annual concerts: a holiday performance in December and a spring concert in early May, held at different locations each year.
Expanding Group Welcomes New Members
Considered by Nelson-Tracey to be a “teaching choir,” the group welcomes all community members and includes a number of NVCC students, who can receive college credit for singing with the group, she said.
She added that the NDC is looking to grow.
“Come hear us, so that you get a sense of how you perform, and come to practice. You can come and try it out before you make a decision to join us,” Regazzi said. “We know how to have fun, and we do know when to be serious,” she added. “You get out of it what you put into it.”
The choral group promotes a family atmosphere. “For me, it’s a home away from home, with friends and family of another sort. It’s one of my great joys of life,” Regazzi said.
“I think they are our second family,” commented Susie Koutnik, another founding member whose husband Jeff is also involved in the choir.
To Nelson-Tracey, the New Dominion Choraliers “is very satisfying. It’s the passion that keeps me going,” she said.
Learn more at www.newdominionchoraliers.org.
Stephanie Tipple is a college student, journalist and community leader. She resides in Woodbridge. She can be reached at [email protected].