Florence’s Masterworks Choir has announced a competition and scholarship for young people in honor of its late founder.
William Mills, the group’s longtime conductor, died in February after a battle with cancer. He founded the Masterworks Choir in 1979 to bring the Pee Dee’s most talented vocalists together to perform choral classics at the Central United Methodist Church on Irby Street.
Now, the group has decided to honor Mills’ work with a competition to recruit talented high school juniors and seniors and allow them to work with the group and vie for scholarships to pursue their artistic aspirations. Though the group is still ironing out details, the inaugural auditions will be in the fall of 2013 and winners will be invited to sing in the 2014 spring concert.
Roger Malfatti is the group’s board chairman and said it is important to the group, as it was to Mills, to develop young artists so there will be more talent in the future.
“Bill was very instrumental in bringing young voices in and developing the talent in this community,” Malfatti said. “His artistry was so great, everyone wanted to follow him, everyone wanted to be a part of it. He was a magnet for musical people in this town.”
Mills conducted his final performance last December. Current conductor William Carswell wrote in Sunday’s spring concert program that “beauty has been diminished with the loss of Bill Mills.” He recounted his colorful remarks, facial expressions, smirks and stories, noting that he lived for his art.
“Music and all things musical seemingly coursed through every fiber of his being,” Carswell wrote. “Rarely have I experienced such a force of nature.”
Mills’ legacy is a 65-member-strong choir, and though all participants are volunteers, Malfatti said they are certainly professional quality. Though many of the classic works it performs are religious, the choir is open to all singers regardless of religion.
More details will be available about the competition this fall, and Malfatti said it likely won’t be the only way the group honors Mills’ life and work. But for now, he thinks this is a good start that Mills would love.
“I think he’s singing ‘Hallelujah’ right now,” Malfatti said.
The Masterworks Choir’s next performance will be Handel’s “Messiah” on Sunday, Dec. 9.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the “Competition Fund” can mail a check to Masterworks Choir, P.O. Box 469, Florence, S.C., 29503.
This article was written by Ellen Meder
and originally appeared on scnow.com.