By Samantha O’Conner

socconner@bakercityherald.com

Patriotic music filled the second level of the Baker Heritage Museum as the Baker Community Choir, in its 37th year, performed on May 3, 4 and 5.

Among this group of talented singers, three have journeyed with the Choir since its beginning.

In 1981, LaVonne Yeoumans (soprano), Sharon McKim (alto), and Bob McKim (baritone) were among the first singers to join the newly formed Community Choir and perform for its debut in the spring of 1982.

Yeoumans, 81, recalls Donola (Johnson) Thornburg instructing a group of around 12 women, including herself, in voice lessons in 1981. Yeoumans believes it was inspiration from Thornburg’s classes that led to the creation of the Community Choir.

Sharon McKim said Thornburg had education in music and music production.

Two other teachers, Richard Torrance and Mike Corbett, directed the choir in its early years.

“When we first started using that auditorium at the middle school, that stage was so packed because we had so many people in the choir we could hardly find places for everybody to stand,” Yeoumans said.

Yeoumans and the McKims, both 81, reminisced about early performances of musicals such as “Oklahoma!” that included singers dressing in costume.

Through the years the Choir has performed with other musicians, including The Blue Yesterdays, the National Guard orchestras, the La Grande Children’s Orchestra and the Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra.

Yeoumans said the choir is careful when setting dates for its performances so as not to compete with the traditional Vespers concerts at Baker High School in December.

Recalling their favorite performances, Sharon McKim said she has always enjoyed those with a patriotic theme.

“We used to have ... somebody would come in from the military and carry the flag in, and representatives from the different branches of the military would carry the flag in,” Sharon McKim said.

Yeoumans recalled when the Choir asked people in the community to share pictures of anyone in their family who was or had been in the military.

The Choir converted the pictures into slides that were shown on the wall of the Baker High School auditorium during their performance around 15 years ago.

“That was really special,” Yeoumans said.

“One of my favorites was, we did ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ the long version, and it came out pretty good,” Bob McKim said.

The Community Choir is looking for new members and welcomes anyone who enjoys singing. The group will announce when it begins practice for the Christmas performance in September.

Choir rehearsals take place at the Presbyterian Church on Mondays. For any questions or information, people can contact one of the choir members.

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