St. John’s Men’s Chorus to present Christmas concert

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Susan Shinn
For the second year, the St. John’s Men’s Chorus Christmas Concert will be a benefit for Rowan Helping Ministries.
The concert is set for 4 p.m. Sunday at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 200 W. Innes St.
“I’m just praying that people will be as generous as they can be,” says the chorus director, Rosemary Kinard, who serves as the church’s associate parish musician.
The 37-voice choir ó which includes men from throughout the community ó will present a program of holiday songs that includes sacred and gospel selections.
Guest soloist is the Rev. Dr. Grant Harrison, tenor, who is pastor of Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church. His wife, Joanne, will be featured as a piano soloist.
Harrison’s appearance is another step in the partnership which has formed between the two congregations.
“We realized that Dr. Harrison has a very nice tenor voice during our music camp this summer,” Kinard says. “We asked if he’d be interested. We’re really excited about it.”
Harrison will sing “Jesu Bambino” during the offering and “O Holy Night” during the singalong segment of the program.
Other selections include “On Christmas Night,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “Go, Tell it on the Mountain,” “The Birthday of a King,” “Ave Maria” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
Rob Durocher, St. John’s minister of music, has written a special selection, “O Chief of Cities, Bethlehem,” the group will debut on Sunday.
The church’s Handbell Ensemble will also perform during the concert.
The chorus was formed about 1994 ó nobody remembers exactly when ó as an outreach program of St. John’s.
The men gather each Sunday afternoon to practice. On this particular cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, they’re practicing in the chapel.
There’s a bit of discussion as they greet one another about what they did for Thanksgiving, the score of the Sunday afternoon football game and of course, the weather as they get their music together.
As the men perform their warm-up vocal exercises, a warm, deep, rich sound begins to emerge.
“The sonority of a men’s choir is spine-tingling,” Kinard has said earlier in the afternoon.
She’s right.
The men grow serious as they go over specific parts of the program that are especially difficult, their voices joining in close harmonies.
Julius Waggoner and his son, Dan, both St. John’s members, are charter members of the chorus.
“I’ve enjoyed, very much, the camaraderie with the guys,” the elder Waggoner says. “We love to sing together. All of us look forward to coming. It’s not a chore, it’s a pleasure.”
Waggoner admits the selections are not easy.
“You gotta know your part,” he says. “You gotta be able to make it blend.”
Dr. Bob Tannehill, also a St. John’s member, is another charter member of the group.
“We saw a need for it,” Tannehill says of the group’s formation. “It’s a wonderful thing. I really like it a lot. Rosemary is the best chorus director I’ve ever known.”
Tannehill has been singing since he was 4 years old. He’ll be 80 soon.
“The harmony is kinda thrilling,” he says of the group. “It’s very difficult at times. Rosemary works us hard. She inspires us.”
Jim Epperson joined the group after he retired five years ago.
Epperson sang when he was in college, and even took voice lessons. But work eventually interfered with his interest.
“I enjoy singing again and I love working in a large ensemble,” Epperson says. “The purpose for us is to sound as one voice and not as individuals.
“Once I started, I knew it would be hard to give it up, because it is so much fun.”
For more information about Sunday’s concert, or to have the men’s chorus perform for your group, call the church office at 704-636-3431.