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64-year-old plans to resurrect Aurora orchestra

Mary Eileen Hix Hopp directs choir members gathered her family room as
part her effort bring back RessurectiSingers Orchestra.

Mary Eileen Hix Hopp directs choir members gathered in her family room as part of her effort to bring back the Ressurection Singers and Orchestra.

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To participate

Musicians interested in singing or playing with the Resurrection Singers and Orchestra should contact Mary Eileen Hix Hopp at 630-859-1473 or Kent Johnson at 630-896-1213. The group rehearses on Friday and Sunday evenings. Hopp has optimistically scheduled a first performance at 7 p.m. April 21 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 85 S. Constitution Drive, Aurora.

Updated: March 1, 2013 2:20PM

Mary Eileen Hix Hopp has a firm grasp on the concept of resurrection.

In her life, the 64-year-old Aurora resident has repeatedly found herself in a struggle to return to active life and managed to be triumphant. It is with this absolute optimism that she hopes to rebuild the Resurrection Singers and Orchestra, a 72-member group that once made a joyful noise in Aurora for 15 years but has been silent for almost 10 years. Although all of the details are still being finalized, Hopp has no doubt that the choir and orchestra will be ready to perform in April.

The original idea to form an ecumenical choir and orchestra came to Hopp during a difficult time in her life in 1988.

“I had a pulmonary disorder, and I couldn’t talk let alone sing,” recalls Hopp who frequently sang solos at area churches and events. “I kept praying and promised God that if I got better, I would do something wonderful. I would start a choir and orchestra.”

After five months of silence, Hopp’s condition did improve, so she went to work. Since her mother and father owned Hix Music Center, she was able to draw on their contacts to get started. Hopp called and talked to everyone she knew about forming the group. Then in 1989, the 35-member Resurrection Singers and Orchestra performed the Cantata, “The Day He Wore My Crown.”

The Resurrection Singers and Orchestra quickly grew in size and reputation, playing to packed audiences. But after 15 years, Hopp fell ill with Reflex Sympathy Dystrophy or RSD.

“I know what RSD stands for, but I call it Really Stupid Disease,” Hopp says.

She suffered incredible pain and was hospitalized 27 times. Without their ambitious leader, the Resurrection Singers and Orchestra disbanded.

“I thought I was done. I had kept my promise,” Hopp says. “But pastors kept calling me asking me to get the group back together.”

Hopp still has serious health concerns but feels that she needs to bring back the music.

“I feel like the Holy Spirit is telling me to get back to music,” she says. “I was at the doctor’s office one day and he also told me, ‘Mary Eileen, you have got to get back to your music.’ I told my husband that I have a prescription from God and my doctor to bring back the Resurrection Singers and Orchestra.”

As Hopp started calling the former members, she found out that several had passed away and others were no longer able to perform. However, she refuses to be discouraged. She has found a dozen strong singers and is rehearsing twice a week in her home. She also has about 12 musicians working on the music.

“I am calling everyone I know to try to find people who share the same love for music. I really need a second pianist and a strong tenor who can sing gospel,” she says.

After sharing her plans with her brother Peter Hix, who runs the Hix Brothers Music Stores, she has another strong supporter.

“I am telling everyone that the Hix Brothers are helping the Hix sister resurrect the Resurrection Singers and Orchestra,” Hopp says.

“Mary Eileen has no shortage of energy,” Hix says. “She is planning this whole thing, and I am there to help her however I can.”

“Many of us are a little nervous,” says Roberta Silagyi, one of the original group members. “Years have gone by, and we are older. But we have been practicing and rehearsing, and we love what we do.”

The group welcomes new members.

“We need instrumentalists and a few more singers,” says Kent Johnson, who serves as Hopp’s production assistant as well as sings in the choir. “Anyone who loves music needs to be part of this group.

“When there are a dozen or so strong singers and a 20 piece orchestra, the sound we create is so rich and full. Being in this group is a great experience. I am here because I love doing this.”

But Hopp’s health is fragile.

“I have Central Nervous System Vasculitis now. It is something with all the blood vessels in my brain. I had a bunch of tests yesterday,” she explains. “But I am going to do this.”

At a recent rehearsal, she demonstrated that her hearing, musical skills and voice are all functioning. She sat in an armchair in her family room clutching the music in one hand and counting time with the other. She patiently led the group through difficult patches and identified the notes that were wrong with ease. Her energy was boundless and her attention to detail was precise.

Once the pianist began to play, there was no talk of illness, no worry about getting new members or any other distractions. Her heart and soul was consumed with the notes being played and sung, and her energy spread to everyone in the room.

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