One Voice: Singing Groups Come Together to Support Richmond Arts Programs 

click to enlarge Sonia Elliott, managing director of One Voice Chorus, and Larry Kellogg, a founding member of Soundworks Chorus, have worked to promote racial reconciliation through music.

Ash Daniel

Sonia Elliott, managing director of One Voice Chorus, and Larry Kellogg, a founding member of Soundworks Chorus, have worked to promote racial reconciliation through music.

In 2014, a year after Armstrong High School’s choir sang at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York, the program was still strained for money.

It was then that One Voice, a local, nondenominational group of about 100 singers, joined with Soundworks Chorus, a 15-member, all-male group composed of Virginia vocalists, and stepped to the microphones.

In one evening, the two groups shared the stage with students from the Armstrong program, raising more than $4,000 so the singers could attend national competitions and purchase sheet music and uniforms.

“We brought all of our time and talent together, put on this great concert for Armstrong High School — we were the opening acts and the kids were the [headlining] act,” says Larry Kellogg, one of Soundworks founding members and its president. “Sabrina Squire helped with some nice comments to the audience and asked everyone to do what they could to help.”

The event was a big success for Armstrong, but it ultimately came at a cost to the two nonprofit choruses. Their new collective had a funding issue of its own and was unable to produce a benefit concert the following year. Now, the two choruses are determined to produce an event on an even grander scale to raise more money for another worthy art program. The boards are still deciding on the recipient.

The march toward that new benefit campaign begins Sunday evening at the Mount Vernon Baptist Church. One Voice Chorus and Soundworks Chorus will again stand side-by-side on the risers to deliver a program showcasing the breadth of sound and vocal dexterity of the mega-chorus. The event is free and donations will be collected at the door to plant the seeds for the future benefit concert.

Local nonprofits have a long history of supporting Richmond City Public Schools with education and extracurricular activities for the city’s youth. This is especially true during lean times for state and city budgets. In a year when the mayor’s budget forces the Richmond School Board to propose a $12.6 million cut to services and the closure of six city schools, charitable organizations might have to take more action.

One Voice Chorus formed in 2004 as a result of collaboration between the musical directors of St. Giles Presbyterian and Ebenezer Baptist churches. The group values openness and inclusiveness, as is evidenced by its no-audition policy.

“We work to promote racial reconciliation through music,” managing director Sonia Elliott says. “We get people together that haven’t been exposed to certain things musically. It gives an open exchange opportunity to learn about another culture and to ask questions.”

Soundworks Chorus has toured concert halls and music festivals in the mid-Atlantic and released two albums highlighting the group’s vocal prowess across numerous genres. The group is small, but its sound is gigantic.

“We sing music that is just as diverse in musical styles as the guys you see in front of you when you see us perform,” Kellogg says.

Elliott says everything they do is for society.

“The community has given both of our groups so much,” she says. “The arts are very near and dear to our hearts, especially the music. With all of the cuts that schools have been experiencing lately, the kids don’t get the experiences that they should. So that’s what we are looking to do is to give back to the community through music.” S

One Voice Chorus Ensemble and Soundworks Chorus hold a benefit concert on April 3 at 4 p.m. at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 11220 Nuckols Road in Glen Allen.

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