Kentwood Senior Chorale celebrates a year of change in Spring concert

Music Director Craig Swatt with the Kentwood Senior Chorale.
Kentwood Senior Chorale performs its spring concert Thursday, May 26.

Craig Swatt wasn’t looking to become the music director of the Kentwood Senior Chorale. He simply was going to fill in as the accompanist for the group during its fall season.


“It was an emergency situation,” Swatt said of becoming the accompanist. “It was through a chance encounter with the former director (Bob Azkoul) that I determined I could fill in for the group.”


Swatt quickly discovered what a fun group the Kentwood Senior Chorale is. “They are extremely welcoming and very stress-free,” he said.


So when the group looked to select a successor for Azkoul, who had been leading the Kentwood Senior Chorale for 22 years, they turned to Swatt.


“When they began looking for for Bob’s successor, it wasn’t something I was thinking about,” Swatt said. “But I liked the people so much that when they turned to me, I decided I was willing to take the position.”


Swatt, who is the music director at St. Michael Church in Grand Ledge, will lead the group through its spring concert set for Thursday, May 26 at 7 pm at Heritage Baptist Church, 1570 60th St. SE.


The Kentwood Senior Chorale is part of the Kentwood Parks and Recreation programs for older adults. Currently there are about 40 members in the group. Swatt said the bulk of the group’s performances are at local nursing homes, senior centers and schools. The group usually performs September through May, taking a break during the summer. Rehearsals are two hours on Tuesdays next year. Performances are scheduled so that the choir can rehearse for an hour and then give an hour concert. All performances, except the spring concert, are during the day, Swatt said.


“First and foremost, the goal is to be fun for its members,” Swatt said, adding that the group easily accomplishes that. The next goal is providing good music that is challenging and inspiring. “The real meat of this group is going out into the community and performing,” he said. “We really provide a community service going into nursing homes and assisted living facilities and seeing the smiles on peoples’ faces. It is such a welcoming atmosphere.”


Since the performance is a wrap-up concert for the year, Swatt said he wanted to keep it simple with a fairly diverse repertoire. He opted to break the program down into four parts: patriotic, oldies and goodies, inspiration (which includes both music with a moral message and religious pieces) and Broadway.


The performance is also a celebration of the transition that took place in leadership. “I’m so proud of how we handled the transition,” Swatt said. “Many of them just stuck with it. They were really positive and very loyal to the organization.”


The Kentwood Senior Chorale welcomes new members. There is a registration fee to participate. For more information on the group, go here or call Kentwood Parks and Recreation at 616.656.5270.