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A Plano treasure: 15th Street Singers

15th Street Singers, Plano, Texas

What does it take to become one of the premier acapella groups in the Plano area? Certainly, it requires remarkable talent. Another key ingredient is the commitment to rehearse and perform. And, of course, shared musical values are essential. But one leading group has discovered a fourth element for success – having fun while producing music that uplifts the soul and delights the ears of its audiences.

15th Street Singers, which takes its name from one of its first venues in Plano, has brought musical joy to the area for over a decade. Three of the original eight founding members continue to sing with the group, along with twelve others from Plano, McKinney, and Anna. Their ages range from young adult to 60-somethings, and all share a love of singing beautiful music with each other. In fact, most consider the sharing of their musical talents an integral part of their personal missions.

As might be expected, several of the group’s members are professional musicians. Three have taught piano and voice lessons for years. One member, Darrell Fletcher, is also a composer and arranger with three musicals to his credit. He has sung the National Anthem for the Texas Rangers, and performed at private parties, including a birthday party for Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones.

Others simply love to sing while earning their livelihoods in other areas. Bass Joseph Martin has been singing for as long as he can remember, starting at age 8 in the church choir and
continuing through high school and college. Another member, Vance Bryson, came from a family of musicians and has continued to develop his abilities through private voice lessons and being part of 15th Street Singers. Many of the group members sing with their church choirs or lead the music in their congregations.

What draws such diversity to a small group like 15th Street Singers instead of a larger musical group? Surprisingly, almost everyone responded with the same answers. First on the list is the fun atmosphere. According to Darryl Fletcher, the members love singing together in a low-stress, fun, “free-to-goof around” environment. The second reason is the deep, genuine friendships that have developed over time. For Vance Bryson, rehearsals are the highlight of his week where he can enjoy the camaraderie of those who love to sing. Next is the flexibility. Original member Cecily Weatherford researches and chooses most of the music that 15th Street Singers performs. But all members are encouraged to bring pieces that the group can develop into beautiful four-part harmonies. Everyone’s opinions and contributions are valued. Finally, the structure of the group allows a unique opportunity to shine. As bass singer Joseph Martin put it, “I am a bit of a show-off, and singing in a small group lets me perform on an individual level rather than being lost in the crowd of a big choir.”

Fewer numbers, however, do not equate to a lack of talent or quality of music. The audience at the Dickens Fest 2017 on December 1st proved the group’s ability to touch the hearts of its listeners. There, the crowd enjoyed all the traditional carols like “Let It Snow,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Mary, Did You Know?” But the show stopper was the Caribbean-flavored “Tiny Little Baby” sung with the accompaniment of a wooden guiro. Toes were tapping, and hands were clapping to the rhythmic beat. And when the group completed its 30-minute presentation with its trademark hymn of “Let There Be Peace,” even little children sat in awed reverence.

15th Street Singers also performed the following day at the Allen Nativity Display. Reflecting the more spiritual venue, most of the group’s numbers centered on the birth of Christ with carols like “What Child is This?” and the beautiful Austrian arrangement of “Sleep, Sleep, Sleep.” Their music was a perfect accompaniment to the arrangement of dozens of stunning Nativity sets displayed around the large room.

For well over a decade, 15th Street Singers has delighted its audiences with their own unique brand of music designed to lift the spirits and to bring a smile to the faces of all who hear them. In the process, they have become an integral part of the Collin County musical community. What do they hope to accomplish by continuing to sing? As Joseph Martin succinctly stated, “We hope that our audience gets as much joy listening to us perform as we get from performing for them.”

In addition to their regular Christmas performances, the group presents a magnificent spring devotional each year around Easter and performs year-round at other venues. For more information about dates, venues, and scheduling, please contact Cecily Weatherford at 214-458-0320, or reach out via Facebook.

Linda Chism

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