When Stow resident Barbara Jones considers the rigors of participating in a volunteer chorus or orchestra like the one she directs, she acknowledges it might be surprising that anyone participates.
“After a long day of work, our members subject themselves to the discipline of linguistic challenges, the technical demands of the music, the physical rigors of singing or playing an instrument; yet they continue to return for the rewards that only the collective musical experience can give,’’ she said of the more than 80 members of the Sounds of Stow Festival Chorus & Orchestra.
And the ensemble has been drawing area musicians and singers for a long time - 33 years, counting the new season that begins with its 3 p.m. performance Sunday at Hale Middle School, 55 Hartley Road in Stow.
Jones cofounded the group in the late 1970s shortly after she had moved to the small, semirural community.
One of the first town residents she met was Ernest Goldman, a man her father’s age who had emigrated from Czechoslovakia around the time of World War II.
“By background and training, he was a physicist, but in terms of his passions, he has always been a musician,’’ Jones said of the pianist, now 98 years old. “He could play anything. And among his many interests was bringing people together to make music. He would host evenings in his home where people could learn new music or work together on a sonata.
“Soon after moving from New Jersey to Stow in the 1970s, he became aware of the town’s tradition of holding a spring carnival. The event included art, road races, food, a petting zoo, but Ernest looked around and said, ‘But where’s the music?’ And the organizers said, ‘That’s up to you!’ ’’
The group that Goldman assembled became the precursor of the ensemble for which Jones would eventually serve as director. She and the accompanist are the Sounds of Stow’s only paid employees; all of the singers and instrumentalists are volunteers, and at times, Jones still expresses amazement that this has become her vocation.
“I grew up at a time when women were encouraged to become teachers, nurses, or secretaries before giving it up to become a wife. It certainly never occurred to me that I would ever be a conductor!’’ she said.
“I will never forget hearing the recording of the first major piece we did with the orchestra - Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria,’ of course - and literally being moved to tears, not because the performance was so good, but because I had never dreamed I would be someone who was leading a chorus and orchestra.’’
Soon after its founding, the group removed the stipulation that members must live in Stow; now its roster includes residents of 22 communities, ranging from high school students to senior citizens. Goldman stopped performing only three years ago.
Bob Glorioso of Stow and his wife have been part of the group for three decades.
“I’m a tenor, and every group grabs tenors even if they’re not very good,’’ he said. “It’s great fun. My wife and I are returning from Florida just in time for the concert; we missed a lot of rehearsals, but the two of us practiced together while we were away, so I can’t wait to hear how the piece sounds with the full orchestra.’’
Many members are especially excited about Sunday’s program, which includes the area premiere of “Requiem,’’ a 2010 piece by British composer Bob Chilcott, “Hear My Prayer’’ by Felix Mendelssohn, and Piano Concerto No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich, showcasing the virtuosity of Gregory Tolwinski, who studied with Jones as a younger musician.
“As far as we are from the city, I think it’s impressive that we do the kind of challenging, difficult, interesting stuff that you usually see in Cambridge or Boston,’’ commented Margot Law, who lives in Acton. “Talented vocalists seek us out, want to sing with us, just because it’s so hard to get an opportunity to perform music this interesting with an orchestra. It’s a gorgeous experience for everyone.’’
Tickets are $25, or $20 for seniors, and are available in advance at Serendipity, 63 Main St., Hudson.
MUSIC ALL AROUND: The Brookline Literacy Partnership, a student-run organization that partners with the Mather School in Dorchester, will present its annual fund-raising concert Saturday at 3 p.m. at Brookline High School, 115 Greenough St. “IntelliJam 2012’’ will feature music by Cuban group Ten Tumbao, singer and songwriter Molly Mehlsack, and Brookline High School’s Samba Drum Group. Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for students. For advance tickets or more information, go to www.brooklineliteracypartnership.com.
Cappella Clausura presents “Mistress: A Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the Birth of America’s First Poet, Mistress Anne Bradstreet,’’ with new music by contemporary composer Hilary Tann, on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Parish of the Messiah, 1900 Commonwealth Ave. in Newton. Tickets are $15 to $25, and are available in advance at www.clausura.org.
Newton residents Roberto Mighty and Kathryn Howell will perform classics by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, and Richard Rodgers, as well as new arrangements of hits by the Beatles, the Stylistics, the Carpenters, Bob Dylan, and their own originals, in a free concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Newton Free Library, 330 Homer St. in Newton Centre. For details, call 617-796-1360.
Also on Sunday, the Metrowest Symphony Orchestra presents “Cosmic Concerto,’’ featuring Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra and Cadavieco’s “Cosmos,’’ at 3 p.m. in the Keefe Technical School auditorium, 750 Winter St. in Framingham. The musicians include Brookline 12-year-old Amir Siraj, who will perform the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors, and free for ages 11 and younger; visit www.metrowestsymphony.org or call 508-686-3100.
FAIRY TALE WEEKEND: Watertown Children’s Theatre presents Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,’’ featuring a cast of fourth- through eighth-graders, and first- and second-grade junior players, directed by Meghan Kenny.
Performances are Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Mosesian Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown. Tickets are $12; go online to www.watertownchildrenstheatre.org or call 800-838-3006. For details, call 617-926-ARTS.
ST. PATRICK’S BIG DAY: Jimmy Tingle, comedian, raconteur, social activist, and founder of the Humor for Humanity Party, will return to First Parish in Bedford, 75 Great Road, at 7 p.m. Saturday to perform “Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream: Live on Stage & Screen’’ as a benefit for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s human rights work. Tickets are $25 and available online at www.uubedford.org and www.jimmytingle.com. For details, call 781-275-7994.
Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston serves up its 14th edition of “A Little Bit of Ireland,’’ with music, dancing, and comic blarney featuring world champion Irish step-dancer Liam Harney, fiddlers Seamus Connolly and Larry Reynolds, the Massachusetts Harp Ensemble, comedian Jerry Walker, tenor Rusty Russell, and Broadway soloist Sarah Pfisterer. Performances are Saturday at 2 and 6 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington St. in Waltham. Tickets are $35 to $50 for adults, with $2 off for seniors 60 and older, and $25 for ages 5 to 18. Call 781-891-5600 or visit www.reaglemusictheatre.org.