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Penton keeps chorale in tune

Randi Penton always loved music.

As a toddler, she would dance and sing to the rhythms of the radio at home. Just a few years later, she finally felt the urge to pick up an instrument, only it was a bit too heavy to lift.

She’d sit and listen to her mother, sister and brother play the antique piano her parents bought when she was 9 years old.

Before long, she got her hands on a clarinet while in the sixth grade and let music take her away into a melodic frenzy lasting forever.

Penton currently works at Jemison Elementary School and serves as instrumental conductor for the Chilton Pops and vocal conductor for the Chilton Civic Chorale.

The Gonzalez, Fla., native moved to Clanton in summer 2001 and joined the chorale and Pops in summer 2002. While she conducts both, she often plays alto saxophone with the Pops.

She said she started conducting music thanks to the positive influence of her own high school band directors.

“Before I was a senior in high school, I knew that I wanted to be on a podium and teach students a lifelong love of music,” Penton said. “A friend of mine at church described it so eloquently. ‘Music feeds my soul,’ she said. I thought, ‘Wow, that is exactly why I continue to pursue a career in conducting.’”

The Chilton Civic Chorale, now in its 16th year, is a community choral group composed of singers from Chilton and surrounding counties who come together to produce several music programs each year.

The Chilton Pops, the instrumental branch of the organization, not only accompanies the Chorale for most of its shows but also produces “Moonlight Serenade,” an evening of dinner and big-band swing music, each spring.

Until Thursday, Marsha Littleton served as the chairwoman of the Chilton Civic Chorale and Pops board of directors. Andy Mayfield replaced her in that position last night at a board meeting. Littleton has been a member since 1995 and has served on the board for most of that time. She also served as president of chorale membership for several years.

The chorale will sing some beautiful classical music as well as some old-style gospel tunes for its “Praises” concert in June, Littleton said.

“This variety of selections is fun to sing and will hopefully be exciting for our audiences to hear,” she said. “Audiences really seem to get into the music, and when we see folks having a good time, we’re excited.”

“Randi is an exceptional musician, director and teacher,” Littleton said. “She helps us sing and play good music well. She has the patience of Job with all the musicians she deals with, and she’s never without a smile. In music circles, all these qualities coming together in one person is unique.”

Penton is a textbook professional, according to Littleton, who obviously enjoys leading the Pops and chorale. Her delight in the music is contagious to other members, she said.

“Her musicians, both singers and instrumentalists, have fun making music, and audiences pick up on that,” Littleton said. “And when our citizens enjoy any form of the arts, that’s a big plus for our county as a whole. When the arts flourish, so does the community.”

Penton is particularly pleased with the community’s reception and generosity to Pops and chorale. She said while she’s been involved, Chilton County residents have shown an outpouring of support by donating money that eventually awards scholarships to high school students pursuing majors and minors in musical education.

Most of all, Penton can’t wait for this season of Pops and chorale. Her biggest thrill is getting to work with so many other gifted and dedicated musicians who share her love of music.

“This season I am excited to work with talented and hard working musicians in both groups,” she said. “After each rehearsal, I feel happy to have worked with these fine people, and satisfied that we make improvements each week.”