The voices: Sanders, Wilkinson reunite for another concert May 6

Published 12:05 am Sunday, April 9, 2017

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — Old South Rowan High friends Jerrod Sanders and Neal Wilkinson will be reunited May 6 for a special night of songs at First Baptist Church in Salisbury.

Joining them that evening will be the 44-member East Rowan High Honors Chorus under the direction of Dean Orbison.

“We were very pleased they were able to come and interested in coming,” Wilkinson says.

The 6 p.m. show will be a wide mix of songs, including sacred pieces, pop selections, Broadway show tunes — “a variety of different styles and music,” Wilkinson says.

Susan Trivette will be on the piano. A reception will be held in the church fellowship hall afterward.

In 2015, Sanders and Wilkinson provided a similar concert with the South Rowan High Honors Chorus.

“That was a fun time the last time,” Wilkinson says, describing how the audience was filled with teachers and classmates from the 1970s. “Two years ago, it was like a multi-year class reunion.”

The public is welcome May 6. There will be no admission tickets, but contributions will be taken at the door, and proceeds go toward a scholarship fund of the South Rowan High Alumni Association.

A well-known local tenor, Wilkinson has headlined many shows, choruses and church programs. He also has made singing the national anthem a specialty, and that pastime has taken him to events and professional sporting venues across the country.

Sanders, who lives and works in New York City, has sung with the Metropolitan Opera, making his Met debut as Mingo in a performance of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”

He went on to a tour of the opera in Israel and Canada. This was followed by a contract to do “Porgy and Bess” with the Houston Grand Opera, which toured in Italy and France.

That’s only part of his extensive résumé.

Sanders is a 1976 graduate of South Rowan High; Wilkinson, a 1975 graduate. They first appeared as singers on stage together in the spring of 1974, when South Rowan High drama teacher Pat Corriher cast them in “Hello, Dolly!”

Sanders played the role of Barnaby Tucker; Wilkins, Cornelius Hackl. The men also sang in the high school’s Modern Ensemble together, and in Wilkinson’s senior year, they performed together in “South Pacific.”

Sanders, who was student body president, gives the late Frances Cowan, director of the South Rowan High Chorus, a lot of credit for recognizing and encouraging his singing talent.

She scheduled singing engagements for him at churches and civic clubs and had him compete in the N.C. Federation of Teachers’ Singing Voice Competition. Sanders won second place among high-schoolers.

Sanders starred in “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” during his senior year at South Rowan before majoring in music and becoming classically trained as a singer at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

In college, he won district and regional titles in the National Association of Teachers’ Singing Voice Competitions.

By 1980, he had moved to New York. Today, Sanders is on the music ministry staff as a cantor for Holy Cross and St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church.

Holy Cross is located in the heart of all the Broadway theaters on 42nd Street in Manhattan. In a recent engagement, Sanders sang the role of the king in a film version of a new opera, “Imoinda,” by the British composer Odalina de Martinez.

He also was King Kaspar in the opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” by composer Gian Carlo Menotti.

His New York debut years ago was in the opera,”Der Schauspieldirektor “by Mozart with Opera Ebony. This was followed by a performance of Goro in Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.”

Sanders and Wilkinson first talked seriously about a joint concert several years ago, when Sanders traveled from New York to sing at Bethpage Baptist Church in Enochville. Classmate Debbie Freeze Grant planted the idea in their heads, according to Wilkinson.

Sanders still has a sister in Troutman and a sister in Charlotte.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.