When Joshua McCrary started an informal singing group with eight of his friends in 2010, he had no idea what it would become.
“I was still in high school, so we just kind of wanted to sing,” McCrary said.
Nearly a decade later, the Iredell Choral Society has held dozens of community fundraisers and more than 20 seasonal concerts across the county.
But, due to a sudden and unexpected loss of revenue, the group is being forced to disband.
“It’s going to be weird come January … not to have rehearsals and interacting with members,” McCrary said. “It’s something that’s taken precedence in my life for nearly 10 years, so it’ll be weird not doing it.”
McCrary, who lives in Statesville, said the nonprofit’s main funding source was its resale store in a Statesville shopping center – the Iredell Choral Society (ICS) Resale Shop.
McCrary said the group spent about $40,000 a year for resale shop expenses, advertising and concerts, and “99 percent” of revenue came from the shop.
The group had signed a three-year lease for it. But then, a year into their lease, McCrary said the center was sold to a new owner who raised rent prices.
“We asked to be cut loose from our lease, and basically they did allow us to do that,” McCrary said. “But we had put so much into equipment because we were expecting to be there for several years, and it left us in a lot of debt. And we don’t have a way to pay it back. It was the way we made money.”
McCrary said that, because of its financial investment in the store, the choral society now owes about $20,000.
“So the debts started worrying us, and we decided to take care of these debts,” McCrary said of the decision to disband the group.
The group’s last concert will be its annual Christmas concert at Southside Baptist Church, where McCrary is the director of senior adults and worship.
But he said he will be holding various fundraisers throughout next year to help pay off the group’s debt.
ICS Secretary and Mooresville resident Brittany Bernatchez said she was surprised to hear about the rent increase that forced the closure of the resale store.
But she said she plans to stay involved with the group throughout its fundraising process until its debt is resolved.
“I go to church with Josh,” Bernatchez said. “He’s very involved with the community. So I plan on being as much a help as I can to him.”
Although the group is organized around choral music, Bernatchez said singing is not its primary mission.
“It’s truly just a wonderful outreach to the community,” Bernatchez said. “The singing aspect is a great piece, but it’s truly about what you can do for your fellow citizens.”
Over the years, the group has organized numerous fundraisers for local people in need and in times of distress.
Even with the debt looming, the group planned a December benefit for a local family who was displaced during one of this season’s hurricanes.
“That’s always been the first focus, and then it’s the music second,” Bernatchez said. “We’ve asked, ‘How can we minster through our music?’”
This year’s Dec. 7 Christmas concert will be the ninth the choral society has held, and it is the group’s biggest – and only paid – show of the year.
McCrary said he’s not yet sure how the organization’s legacy will be continued after it’s over.
“Who knows what the future holds,” McCrary said. “I have a 2-year-old son, so it will be nice to take some time and devote it to him. I miss the shop very much, and if you have a passion, it always seems to fall into place. So I may want to open a shop in a couple of years – who knows?”
But one thing McCrary will continue doing is singing.
“Choral music is a dying style – you don’t see it often,” McCrary said. “But it has a way of connecting with people of all walks of life … and that’s what’s unique. You can touch anyone with the right song.”