Sing for joy: the festival of choirs returns
BY KAREN THIEL
For the Washington Daily News
Two decades of choral culture returns this weekend, with the Beaufort County Community Choir Festival’s first performance since its cancellation during the Covid-19 pandemic. The free concert will be held this Sunday, February 26 at 4:00 pm at First Christian Church, 307 East Third Street in Washington.
“The opportunity to come together as a community and make beautiful music in praise of the Lord is a tender and sweet thing,” said Pastor Greg Barmer of First Baptist Church, one of the founders of this event. He said it has been a “continuous blessing of Beaufort County for probably over 20 years … born out of a desire to be together rather than to be separate denominations or churches. Beautiful music alone is wonderful. But beautiful music in praise of the Lord imparts an entirely different power that is not present simply with beautiful music.”
Longtime participants include choirs from First Baptist, First Christian, First Methodist, and First Presbyterian Churches, all in Washington. The choir of Trinity Episcopal Church of Chocowinity was recently involved. Also a long-standing tradition is the leadership of “external clinicians” – music directors with extensive experience. The event drew nationally known college-level choral faculty members from Kansas City and Knoxville as well as more regional, yet still nationally known, choral faculty members from ECU and Gardner Webb University near Charlotte.
This year’s program includes its traditional components and several novelties. Beth Clark of First Christian Church will conduct a performance by an eight-member school-aged bell choir from Trinity Episcopal, First Methodist, and First Christian Churches. Expenses for printed program music, instrumentalists hired, bell choir expenses, and catering for attendee rehearsals will continue to be met by the Roberson-Bagwell Endowment Fund, based at First Christian Church. Performances will include orchestra, two pianos, organ, chimes, combined choir and congregational singing. Selections of sacred music will be offered, as well as traditional and modern hymn sets, according to First Baptist Music Director Jesse Davis, including everything from “10,000 Reasons” to a combination of “Every Promise of Your Word” and “Standing On The Promises “. When asked about more titles, Davis said “come and be surprised.”
This year’s guest clinician is Leslie Hill of Knoxville, Tennessee, who began piano lessons as a child. She accompanied her school choirs from fourth grade through college graduation, then spent 14 years teaching high school music, while simultaneously serving as pianist for local churches. Hill is now director of music ministries at the United Methodist Church in Fountain City. “Having professionals elsewhere to add to the choral process training is a rare asset. They validate what we’ve taught here and unify all of the choirs that participate,” said Sally Love, a Washington resident, an original co-founder of the community choir.
Even more than the music, the fellowship created by mixed church groups is expected to be heavenly, with adjectives that include “wonderful, uplifting, fun, and educational.” He noticed. Davis said that “something like this, the opportunity to have a massive choir and have a choral technician like Leslie Hill work with us to blend and blend our whole voice in a really heavenly and majestic way, is rare to this part”. Clark said the attendees have “different denominations and slightly different interpretations of what it means to be Christian, but we can come together in song and fellowship, united by our faith in God and our love of music.” Love said the blessing is also “in the meeting. In a parking lot we’re the most disparate looking group of people… but then we gather on stage with some music in front of us and glorious things can happen.”
For more information, contact Beth Clark at [email protected] or First Christian Church at 252-946-4293.