Former Po-Hi Chorale members honor beloved director

Beverly Bryant - July 3, 2019 11:27 am

Robert E. Moore created the Po-Hi Chorale in 1966 and had more than 900 dedicated singers in the group under his leadership for the next 30 years.

This past weekend, about 200 Chorale members past and present gathered to sing under the direction of the former conductor.

They journeyed back home from 22 different states and even one foreign country, at their own expense.   With the exception of two class years, there was someone performing from each year of the Chorale’s 53-year existence.   In some cases, there were whole families singing together with children of Moore’s students singing alongside their parents.

The “Po-Hi Chorale Homecoming – A Celebration of Choral Music” took place at the Ponca City Public Schools Concert Hall on Saturday, June 29, 2019.   Close to 700 tickets were sold with plans for the money raised to fund a scholarship for a deserving 2020 Po-Hi Chorale graduating senior.

Moore was the founder and award-winning director for the Chorale from 1966 to 1996.   He led the group to consistently win the highest honors at regional competitions and was the first person inducted into the Oklahoma Music Educators Hall of Fame while still an active educator.

The music was selected by Moore last fall and generations of former Po-Hi Chorale students began rehearsing their parts literally all over the country.   His students will tell you he always believed in hard work and expected their very best. They gladly chose to rise to that challenge once again.

From her home in Montana, former Po-Hi Chorale member Kim Wells Hodges organized this event as well as the one last year at this time.

“As many may recall, Mr. Moore was honored for his 80th birthday last year in June of 2018 with a surprise concert at the Poncan Theatre,” Hodges said.

Hodges, along with a few other Chorale friends, were able to contact all but about 90 alumni out of the 900 students Moore directed during his tenure at Po-Hi.   The surprise reunion was a huge success, drawing state and national news coverage.

Three months after that gathering, Kim visited with Moore in his home.   According to her, the former conductor kept making the comment, “I wish I could get those kids together just one more time to sing.”

Finally, Kim asked him if he would like to conduct.   The result was the recent Chorale Homecoming Concert.

“This has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for each one of us,” Hodges said. “I have true peace in my heart knowing that he now knows just a little bit of the impact he has made in this world.  He didn’t just teach us to love music; he taught us to be human.”

Chorale members created a Facebook page where people can post pictures, videos, memories and sentiments about the concert.   Former Po-Hi Chorale member Sharon Stuemky posted, “Tonight was a blessing and a dream come true – to sing under Mr. Moore’s direction one more time! Though it has been 45 years since I sat under his direction, it felt like yesterday.”

Former singer Amy Smith said, “The Red Blazer – when he came out in that red blazer it was all I could do not to burst into tears, and it made me want mine back!”

Former Po-Hi graduate and long-time educator Gayle Young stated, “Though I graduated the year before Mr. Moore joined our Po-Hi family, I have thoroughly enjoyed following what he has done and how you all have honored him through the past year! The concert you gave for him last night was beyond words to describe except to say it was a pure joy to get to experience it! Thank you seems so trite, but you gave all of Ponca City a very special gift. Know your efforts have not gone unnoticed and are totally and completely appreciated.”

Monumental, wonderful, amazing, epic, love, memorable, joyful, speechless, surreal, inspiring were some of the responses Chorale participants gave when asked to describe the experience in just one adjective.

A reception across the street from the Concert Hall at The Ponca City Senior High School’s Commons Area was held after the concert.   Moore had a great time seeing and reminiscing with everyone.   He repeatedly expressed throughout the day how proud he was of the Ponca City Schools’ new Concert Hall and said, “Our kids deserve nothing less to showcase their talents.”

With tears in his eyes, he thanked everyone for this rare opportunity.

News 9 in Oklahoma City attended the concert and ran their story Tuesday on their live broadcast as well as their website. To see the story, click Beloved director reunites with alumni.



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