They call themselves the Clif Notes, named after their high school choral director Clif Arnold, who will lead the group in a Christmas concert on Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. at King First Christian Church.
Most of the singers belonged to an elite choral group, the South Stokes High School Madrigals, in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Twenty years after graduating from high school the Madrigals reunited and found their love for choral music had not diminished. It was then, they decided to get back together for rehearsals and performances, and with their new name of the Clif Notes, became highly acclaimed throughout the area.
“I was the music teacher at South Stokes for six years,” Arnold said. “I was just two years out of college and not much older than my own students. They knew I was the teacher and they were respectful, but from day one there was a friendship.”
Arnold left his teaching position to go into the ministry where he serves as an associate pastor in Winston-Salem, but said even after the group took a hiatus from singing together, they remained close.
“We had a great time singing. Our group was unique and made up of different backgrounds. There was a doctor, a nurse, housewives, pharmacists, plumber, a dentist. We all just had this love for music.”
The Clif Notes performed locally, but also sang at the White House on two separate occasions, candlelight services at the Biltmore House and international music festivals, but Arnold said he always believed their voices sounded the most exquisite inside the walls of a church.
“They’re so talented. They could make any director look good.”
At 76-years-old, Arnold’s students may be close in age, but he said they will always be young students in his eyes.
“I’m blessed to have gotten to meet a lot of these people during their high school days and watch them get married, have kids, become grandparents. We’ve done a lot of life together.”
In March of this year, the Clif Notes performed a reunion concert at First Christian Church in King to a packed house.
“After the reunion, we weren’t ready to let it go, not yet,” he said.
Mike Ingram, who graduated from South Stokes in 1971 and was part of Arnold’s music program said there’s something special about the group made up of around 25 today.
“At this point in our life, we’ve all gone through some sort of trial or heartbreak, but it’s nice to have a place to come with people you love and trust.”
The Clif Notes have experienced the loss of five of their members, most recently David Tedder, who passed away on November 23 after battling cancer. Arnold said Tedder was instrumental in reuniting the group and involving the community in everything they did.
At a recent rehearsal, in preparation for the Christmas concert, Tedder was on the forefront of the group’s mind as they discussed how they could make him most comfortable at Sunday’s performance.
But as in life, Arnold said you can’t predict the future. He can’t be sure how long the Clif Notes will continue, but he knows the relationships formed in a high school music room at South Stokes High School will live on forever.
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.