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20 years of singing; $60,000 in giving

Friday, December 15, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:53 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Missourians, a mixed a cappella group, is now in its 20th Christmas season of Victorian-style caroling. This group of 28 mid-Missourians has come a long way from its beginnings — in Florida.

On a winter trip to Disney World, Suzie Nichols was invited to audition for a group of professional Christmas carolers performing at Epcot. Because she lived in Jefferson City, membership in such a group, although appealing, was not an option.

Upon returning home, Nichols decided that if she couldn’t join an old-time caroling group, why not create her own. Thus, the Missourians began as a group of eight singers, including Nichols.

But the ensemble was not created purely for the pleasure of singing. Nichols, a graduate of the MU School of Music, decided her organization could spread Christmas cheer while supporting young vocalists.

Although the Missourians receive payment for performances, they do not keep their profits. The money — beyond what is needed to buy music or costumes — is donated to the Thomas Mills University Singers Endowment Fund, which provides financial support to University Singers, the top choir at MU. Mills was a former choir director at MU.

Nichols sang under Mills in University Singers, as did Sandy Falloon, an alto with the Missourians. Falloon sees the group’s efforts as paying tribute to an old teacher.

“(Honoring Mills) is the fundamental reason most of us sing in the Missourians,” Falloon said. But she also enjoys the charitable aspect of the Missourians. She said it’s a way to help students develop as “professional musicians or professional music lovers.”

Through the years, the Missourians have changed personnel; a total of 44 singers, including the 28 currently involved, have been members. These vocalists have all learned approximately 50 songs, all of which must be memorized.

But the number most striking is the amount of money given to the endowment fund: more than $60,000.

Even as time has passed and members have changed, Nichols’ goal has remained the same. “The ultimate thing,” she said, “is to do really good choral music.”


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