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Katy's 'One A Chord' Troupe Delivering Christmas Cheer to Senior Citizens


By Pat Baldwin

Photography by Pat Baldwin and Rebecca Fox

Members of the One A Chord entertainment troupe have hit the road again, delivering Christmas cheer Mondays through December 16 at area retirement, nursing and assisted living homes. Known for its fast-moving variety shows, the 24-year-old group features singers, dancers and instrumentalists.

Holiday costumes, toy soldiers, dance skits and jingling bells decorate the seasonal performances. Of course, Santa arrives with gifts for the senior residents.

One A Chord members, however, agree the real Christmas magic happens when the familiar carols prompt the sometimes home-bound audiences to laugh, sing along and tap their toes. There are lots and lots of smiles.

A Blessing of Fellowship

The performances are a “real blessing,” says Gail Shipley, who has been the One A Chord music director since 2004. Shipley also serves as director of the Grace Notes, the women’s choir at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Katy. The church provides rehearsal space for One A Chord.

During its 2019-2020 season, the troupe scheduled 28 performances from October through May. One A Chord boasts about 75 volunteer members from various area churches and a synagogue.

The diversity means the members don’t often concur on the best Katy barbecue, community volunteer Chris Crockett says.

“The secret about One A Chord,” she adds, “is that, while it is certainly an amazing ministry in our community, it also is a wonderful ministry to the members of the organization.”

Old-fashioned Variety Shows

Started as an all-female choir, the entertainment group has grown over the years to include an increasing number of men, instruments and dance routines. Except for the Christmas performances, the variety shows include musical hits from previous decades, Broadway show tunes, gospel songs and patriotic music.

The public is welcome to attend performances. Singers, dancers and instrumentalists are invited to become members of the entertainment troupe too. The requirements mostly include having fun and being available on Monday mornings.

Just ask Gay Munguia about the fun. The 85-year-old beams as she tap dances to “Up on the Housetop.”

And Hal Butt remembers when he and his wife, Debbie, encountered Shipley at a local coffee shop. “A coincidence,” he recalls. Now, Butt has been contributing his bass voice for seven years.

Sharing Community Spirit

While Shipley emphasizes that no musical experience is needed, the troupe does attract members with musical backgrounds – and a lot of community spirit.

Steve Hoyle is director of music at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Houston. He also teaches clarinet in the Cypress-Fairbanks and Katy independent school districts. He says friends told him about One A Chord and, fortunately, he’s available on Mondays.

George Engelmann is retired orchestra director at Taylor High School in Katy.

Crockett notes that director Shipley “doesn’t expect perfection, just passion.” Crockett sings and sometimes “plays” – her quotes – percussion. She admits she confiscated mallets and sticks when her musician son went to college.

Crockett also encouraged Rebecca Fox to join One A Chord in August after Fox completed her 15-year service as a member of the Katy ISD Board of Trustees.

“I wanted to find another way to give back to the community,” Fox says.“This group is filled with talented people who spread sunshine and cheer to others. They have certainly been a blessing to me.”

All in the Family

Shipley hails from a musical family. Her mother was a professional musician who cultivated her daughter’s talents from an early age. Shipley subsequently majored in music at Baylor University and taught music in elementary and junior high schools for five years before she married husband, Ed, and began a family that now includes three children and seven grandchildren.

Gail and Ed Shipley

Ed Shipley, who retired in 2006, not only enjoys singing but also contributes to One A Chord by coordinating the equipment needs for each performance.

Like many members, both Shipleys sang in a church choir when they discovered One A Chord. Other members enjoy the chance to dust off musical instruments they have not played since school days.

Shipley’s goal? “A whole orchestra,” she says with a laugh.

Connecting with the Audience

When her father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, Shipley often sang in the home where he lived. She saw how the residents responded to live music, and the idea was born that has taken One A Chord from choir to variety show.

“We have fun. They have fun,” Shipley notes. She adds that nursing home staff often report that they see residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s tapping their feet and singing along to songs thought to be forgotten.

“We notice how much they enjoy music and remember the words to songs,” Shipley says. “It’s so touching.”

Joining One A Chord

For more information about joining One A Chord, visit their website here or contact Judy O’Neil, librarian, at 832-567-0435 or Gail Shipley, director, at 281-782-1598. Annual dues are $25 for individuals and $40 for couples. The funds are used to purchase music.

One A Chord’s Free Christmas Performances

The public is welcome.

Monday, December 2, 10:00 a.m.

Oakmont Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Katy

1525 Tull Drive

Monday, December 9, 10:00 a.m.

Legend Oaks Health and Rehabilitation

21717 Provincial Boulevard

Monday, December 16, 10:00 a.m.

Spanish Meadows Nursing & Rehab

1480 Katy-Flewellen Road


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