Church to host 4-choir concert

Published 7:03 pm Monday, March 5, 2012

Sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses from four local choirs will join voices to present the sixth annual Choral Festival concert at First Baptist Church in Washington Sunday.

The concert will feature the Washington choirs of First United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church, First Baptist Church, and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), along with Greensboro brass quintet Market Street Brass, and local handbell choir River City Ringers, for an afternoon of ecumenical music-making.

“It’s a wonderful time to get together in fellowship, as Christians, to share in song and music,” said Beth Clark, the music director of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Sunday’s program consists of seven anthems and several congregational hymns, including well-known pieces like “The Dream Isaiah Saw,” “Eternal Life,” and “Creation Will Be at Peace,” according to First Presbyterian Church music director Mike Morgan.

Morgan has taken part in the festival since its inception, along with Clark and Greg Barmer, music director of First Baptist Church.

“It’s a great experience to sing in a big choir and have people come and work with us so that we become better musicians, no matter what level we are,” explained Morgan.

In an encore conducting performance, Carol Krueger, director of choral activities at Emporia State University in Kansas, was invited to work with the four choirs for the second year running. Krueger is an active clinician and guest conductor who has conducted festivals and honor choirs nationwide.

“She’s wonderful. She’s just a little ball of fire,” said Clark. “She has a real knack for getting really good sounds out of our choir members.”

While each choir has rehearsed the program pieces, the real work will start on Friday evening when the four choirs, representing approximately 75 people, will sing the pieces together for the first time under Krueger’s direction. They’ll do the same on Saturday and again on Sunday afternoon as the final warm-up for the 4 p.m. concert.

In previous years, the composition of concert-goers have largely been friends, family and fellow members of the choir members’ respective churches, but Morgan decided to issue an invitation to the larger church community this year.

“Seeing everybody get together is good, especially in a world where everyone wants to be polarized,” said Morgan.

One dedicated concert-goer hasn’t missed the annual choral festival yet: Hannah Bagwell. In 1996, Bagwell and her husband James set up the Roberson-Bagwell Endowment through the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which funds the Choral Festival, as well as First Christian choir retreats to Christmount Retreat in Black Mountain.

The decision to create the endowment was a natural extension of Hannah Bagwell’s role as the church’s choir director for four decades, but it was in 1996, when the Bagwells celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, that they decided to make a lasting gift to the church in honor of the occasion.

“We’d been so fortunate,” said Bagwell, recalling the conversation with her husband. “I said to James ‘I don’t know of anything I want or any place I want to go.’ So we set up this fund.”

For Bagwell, having the endowment fund musical events and seeing so many church musicians join together is “a dream come true,” and one with many years of music-making ahead.

The Choral Festival will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church, located at the corner of E. Main and N. Harvey streets, Washington. The event is free and open to the public.