Sonoran Desert Chorale

Josie and James Nelson with fellow Ahwatukee residents, Jim Gisselquist, left, and Todd Peterson during the Sonoran Desert Chorale practice at First United Methodist Church in Mesa on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

James and Josie Nelson have been singing together since college, a shared passion the two describe as helpful to their 25-year marriage.

The Nelsons have been members of the Sonoran Desert Chorale since it started in 1994, and are now preparing for the chorale’s 19th season with a concert of blended cultures next weekend.

“When you sing in languages that are native, it’s always interesting,” Josie said.

Since joining the chorale, Josie mentioned they’ve “learned more languages than we can count.”

While the chorale’s style is mostly classical, Josie said there are some performances throughout the year that take a more modern route.

The Nelsons each grew up singing in middle and high school, then to eventually meet in choir while they were both students at the University of Wisconsin.

“It’s always been a big part of our lives,” Josie said.

The couple moved to Arizona in the late 1980s, before they both took about a year off from singing. With each working “normal” jobs, as Josie describes, they were looking for a way to sing with a different kind of time commitment.

Once they signed on, the two said being in the chorale has “been a joy.”

“We have formed terrific friendships here,” Josie added.

The nearly 70-member chorale performs four times a year and its upcoming concert has a flair of Baroque with music that flourished in 16th and 17th century Latin America.

Some of the songs in the concert are sung in Quechua, the imperial language of the Inca, which another is in Nahuatl, an Aztec language.

“These are challenging,” admitted Josie. “But it’s the language of the cathedrals and you can visualize yourself in the cathedral when you sing it.”

Sharing a passion for choral music and performing, the Nelsons say having a common thread of interest has been helpful.

“There’s a lot to commit to, but if you share something like that it’s a huge part,” Josie said.

For now the couple is enjoying their continued friendships they have built within the chorale and have even travelled to Europe for several tours.

“It’s our very best friends, and eventually I think we’ll all grow old together,” Josie said with a laugh.

The concert, called “Music of Nueva España,” will play Oct. 6 at the First United Methodist Church, 15 E. 1st Ave. in Mesa, and Oct. 7 at the Valley Presbyterian Church, 6947 E. McDonald Drive in Paradise Valley.

For more information on the Sonoran Desert Chorale, or to buy tickets, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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