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MANASSAS, Va. – A new CD of Patriotic hymns and fight songs written for the nation’s periods of civil uncertainty and new freedoms is finding an audience among credit unions. The National Men’s Chorus of “Life and Liberty-American Patriotic Music” – a compact disc of 21 tracks performed with the Washington Symphonic Brass at a 2003 Memorial Day concert – is the brainchild of Thomas Beveridge, founder and artistic director of the 40-member choral group. Beveridge has an indirect tie to the movement through Chip Filson, president/CEO of Callahan & Associates Inc., who has sung tenor with the Chorus for three years. An avid singer, Filson’s passion for singing emerged during his high school years in his rural hometown of Renesselaer, Indiana. He also sang in his church choir, a pastime he continues to this day. “It’s an interest I’ve always had,” Filson said. “Some people read or play golf. Singing for me provides that balance we all look for in our lives.” Ironically, Chip’s wife Joan, shares Filson’s vocal interests. She is a member of the 250-member New Dominion Chorale in Virginia, which is also headed by Beveridge. Does he ever get nervous performing in massive concert halls in front of packed audiences? “There’s always some nervousness but more than that, I’m always looking for ways to sound better,” said Filson, who doesn’t see any solo command performances any time soon. “I’m what you would consider in the amateur category,” he admitted. Formed in 1999, the Chorus has performed a number of classical and traditional compositions at the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, the American Music Festival at the National Gallery of Art, the Waterford, Virginia concert series and the Rachel Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va. It seemed fitting when the Board of Regents of Gunston Hall commissioned Beveridge to arrange a cantata for the unveiling ceremony of the George Mason Memorial on the National Mall in 2002. Gunston Hall is the historic Fairfax, Va. plantation of George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Much of the music in the Chorus repertoire is arranged by Beveridge, including a series of letters written by Mason. “Without Chip, we could not have pulled the CD off,” Beveridge said. “He applies enthusiasm and hard work to the chorus.” Mason is widely known for one of the most famous declaration’s in all of history: “all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” His historic words are included in the Bill of Rights. While some critics deem Mason’s most famous declaration with skepticism because he owned African-Americans as slaves at Gunston Hall, according to the plantation’s official Web site, some historians point out that he initially refused to sign the Constitution partly because it did contain a provision to end the slave trade. Politics and historical questions aside, credit unions, corporates and industry vendors are buying the CDs in droves. Beveridge said more than 21,000 copies have been sold and a second print run is pending. Service Credit Union in Portsmouth, N.H., bought 1,000 copies as Christmas gifts for 200 “high deposit” members at 14 military bases in Germany and their base commanders, said Ray Springsteen, vice president of marketing. The $850 million community-chartered credit union serves 85,000 members. “Our military members are so remote and so mobile, trying to maintain a relationship with them is important to us,” Springsteen said. “The CD has a higher perceived value than, say, a pen and we get to personalize it with a message from the CEO, (Gordon Simmons).” WesCorp plans to distribute copies of the 1,000 Life and Liberty CDs it ordered to attendees at its annual meeting in April, said Freda Amir, marketing manager. The $23 billion corporate credit union also plans to send them to some of its 1,000 member credit unions. “We were sold on the idea of it being an ample marketing opportunity,” Amir said. “It’s a good patriotic move with everything going on and it’s a supportive (move) of the arts.” When Stan Hollen, president/CEO of Liberty Enterprises heard about the CD, marketing bells went off. Since both the company and the CD’s title share the word `liberty,’ and a licensing stipulation allows the cover to be personalized, Hollen ordered 3,500 copies. More than 2,000 have already been sent to prospects and Hollen personally mailed 90 CDs over the holidays to people in the industry. “It’s a wonderful fit and so far, it’s been well received,” Hollen said. “I’ve received so many promotional items over the years – paperweights, I have more clocks than I’ll ever need – this is something different and unexpected.” Navy Federal Credit Union co-sponsored the 2003 Memorial Day concert performed by the National Men’s Chorus that inspired the CD’s recording, Beveridge said. The sponsorship of the Chorus’ concert is considered an “anomaly,” admitted Loren Moeller, Navy Federal’s public relations manager. The credit union does support a number of charitable organizations but rarely has it ventured over to the arts arena. “The performance (was) patriotic in nature so we did want to support it from that aspect,” Moeller said. “Every once and awhile we look at different local initiatives and since Gunston Hall and George Mason are local memorials and we have the largest number of employees and members in Fairfax (here), it seemed to fit.” The Chorus’ President, Ed Knight, is also chairman of the Library of Congress Federal Credit Union. At a rehearsal one evening a few years ago, he discovered that Filson had strong ties to credit union land. “In spite of his hectic schedule, Chip has a very high dedication to the chorus,” Knight said. “He’s helped us chart our course promoting the CD and has good ideas on how we can raise money for the organization.” The word of mouth seems to be paying off. The Chorus will perform at this year’s CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference. [email protected]

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