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New director aims to rebuild Hurricane Civic Chorus, honor late predecessor

By Carlee Lammers, Staff Writer
CRAIG HUDSON | Gazette-Mail
Branita Holbrook-Bratka, the new director of the Hurricane Civic Chorus, poses for a portrait inside the Forrest Burdette Memorial Methodist Church in Hurricane on Aug. 17.

With all the divisiveness, violence and hurt in the world, Branita Holbrook-Bratka turns to singing in a choir.

To her, it’s therapeutic, it’s freeing and it’s healing.

“With everything going on in our world, where there’s hurt, pain, divisiveness — really, singing and being in a choir is a great thing. Where else in the world can people come together and sing a completely different harmony part and make truly beautiful music?” she said. “There’s such a joy of having all these voices blending together.”

Holbrook-Bratka is the new director of the Hurricane Civic Chorus. She took over the role in July, replacing former director Larry Stickler who passed away in December 2016.

The Hurricane Civic Chorus is a group of nearly 20 singers who perform at various events throughout the area — including Hurricane’s popular Fourth of July event each year. The group started in 1987, and Stickler took over as the director shortly thereafter.

Holbrook-Bratka, who studied music at Marshall University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has performed as a soloist with the group in the past. She knew Stickler during her time at Marshall and has performed as a soloist with the group on several occasions.

With Stickler’s recent passing, Holbrook-Bratka said the group has been mourning his loss.

“He was much loved from the choir. One member said he was the soul of the group,” she said. “It’s a new start in so many ways. He was the director for 30 years. He was a wonderful man.”

As the new director, Holbrook-Bratka said she hopes to rebuild the choir, introduce new voices and help everyone in the group heal and grow together. All while honoring the life and legacy of the group’s beloved former director and friend.

She said she’s often reminded of the groups “theme song,” entitled “As Long as I Have Music.”

“It goes, ‘For as long as I have music, as long as there is a song for me to sing I can find my way, I can see a brighter day. The music in my life will set my spirit free,’” she said. “The first time I sang it with them, I couldn’t get through it. It’s so powerful.”

The Hurricane Civic Chorus is open to all ages and voice types. Holbrook-Bratka comes to the group with years of voice instructing, choir and music ministry experience.

The group is currently preparing for the winter season, where they will perform a wide section of holiday music.

Holbrook-Bratka said the group also welcomes area high school and college soloists looking for opportunities to perform.

There is no requirement, no prior experience needed to join, except that “you have a song in your heart that needs to come out,” Holbrook-Bratka said, smiling.

The group meets at 7 p.m. every other Tuesday for rehearsal at Forrest Burdette United Methodist Church on Putnam Avenue in Hurricane. For more information, call 304-690-5387.

Reach Carlee Lammers at Carlee.Lammers@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @CarleeLammers on Twitter.


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