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SULLIVAN -- The Coles County Barbershop Chorus will go on the road for a Dec. 10 performance at The Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan following that afternoon's presentation of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas."

In addition, the chorus will perform its 48th Annual Christmas Benefit Concerts at 3 p.m. Sunday at Wesley United Methodist Church in Charleston and at 7 p.m. that night at First Presbyterian Church in Mattoon.

Little Theatre Marketing Director Brenda Abbott said the Coles County Barbershop Chorus' concert there will begin at 5 p.m. Dec. 10 after the theater's 2 p.m. matinee performance of "White Christmas."

"The Barbershop Chorus concert is going to be free to the public, but as people leave they will have the opportunity to give a donation to benefit The Moultrie County Beacon," Abbott said.

The Beacon provides day program, residential and home-based support services to those with intellectual disabilities; community-based mental health services to those with mental illness; and enrichment programs for preschool-aged children.

Barbershop Chorus Director Tom Woodall said this new partnership between the chorus and The Little Theatre for a free benefit concert was organized with the help of chorus singer Phil Martin of Sullivan, who is a retired attorney and a classical pianist. He said Martin and his wife, Nine, are longtime supporters of The Moultrie County Beacon.

Woodall said the Barbershop Chorus provided a quartet, with himself included, for one of The Little Theatre's productions of "Music Man" many years ago, but Dec. 10 will be the first time that the full chorus has ever taken the stage at this theater in Sullivan. The chorus is comprised of more than two dozen men.

Still, Woodall said the chorus has experience taking its show on the road outside of Coles County to Illinois District of the Barbershop Harmony Society conventions and other events. He said the chorus recently won the Illinois District's Philanthropic Award for the 10th consecutive year. He said their benefit concerts annually provide over $8,000 for homeless shelter and food pantry programs, plus high school vocal music programs.

Free-will offerings will be taken during the Barbershop Chorus' Annual Christmas Benefit Concerts on Sunday at Wesley United Methodist in Charleston and First Presbyterian in Mattoon. Woodall said these holiday shows typically raise more than $4,000 for the chorus' charitable efforts.

The Barbershop Chorus will perform a set list of secular and sacred Christmas songs at Sunday's concerts. These concerts also will include 20 women from the newly formed East Central Harmony Chorus, known as the Charleston Sweet Adelines.

Although the Barbershop Chorus is based in Coles County, Woodall said this group draws singers from more than a dozen area communities. He said singers travel from as far away as Champaign and Decatur to perform with the chorus.

"It's a musical fellowship," Woodall said, adding that the singers develop trust and friendship with each as they perform together. He noted that those who join the chorus typically stay involved with this group for many years.

The Coles County Barbershop Chorus typically practices at 7 p.m. every Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church in Mattoon. More information is available by calling Woodall at 217-549-6671 or by visiting.


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