Beloved Po-Hi Chorale Director Reunites With Alumni After Surgery
PONCA CITY, Oklahoma - A year after Ponca City High School alumni traveled from around the globe to sing for their favorite music teacher in a surprise concert, the choir celebrated an even more special reunion.
The Po-Hi Chorale returned once more to honor their beloved Mr. Moore, this time on a brand new stage that honors their legacy. The school district just completed work on the Ponca City Schools Concert Hall in February, a nearly $11 million bond project.
The songs sound even sweeter echoing from its walls, but the perfect harmony could only come from the conducing wand of one man, Moore himself.
“Intensify, intensify, intensify!” he told the choir during rehearsal, adding, “Otherwise it just dies a miserable death.”
Robert Moore's impact inspired alumni to fly from far and wide, for the second year in a row.
“Last year it was more of a celebration,” Moore told me. “This time I’m having to work a little bit.”
After his 80th birthday surprise, Moore and his former students made a determination to continue their work.
“I’m actually singing with a choir in Wilmington, Del. now,” said Nina Phansalkar Corey-Weaver, who graduated in 1975.
The standards Moore is famous for remain incomparable.
“He still knows what he wants, and we’re still happy to make that happen,” said John Atkins, who went on to be a professional opera singer after graduating in 1976.
Corey-Weaver added, “He’s mellowed out a bit, I would say, but he has the ability to make us want to be the best that we can be.”
One setback stood in his way, though, his body. In recent years, Moore has battled severe tremors that he said left him unable to drink even a cup of coffee. But to demand the best from his students, he knew he had to demand the best from himself.
“They call it deep-brain stimulation, and they go down into the brain to the thalamus,” he explained.
Moore underwent surgery to steady his conducting hand, and on the big night, he had one more surprise in store.
He walked onto the stage wearing the group’s iconic Po-Hi Chorale red blazer. The show went on, and ended in a standing ovation.
“It worked!” Moore exclaimed. “I’m living results that it works.”
The renewed connection between head and hand are a reflection of the connection between one teacher and hundreds of students.
Atkins said, “In a strange way, we have affected the rest of his life in a positive way, and that was really powerful to me.”
At the end of the concert, Moore told me, “It went pretty well!”
An understatement, to say the least.