Sing for Joy: Choir festival returns

Published 12:45 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

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For the Washington Daily News

Two decades of choir culture will return this weekend, with the first performance of Beaufort County’s Community Choir Festival since its cancellation during the Covid-19 pandemic. The free concert will be held at 4 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 26, 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, sweet thing,” Pastor Greg Barmer of First Baptist Church, one of the founders of this event said. He said it’s been a “continuous Beaufort County blessing for probably pushing 20 years…born out of a desire to be together more than to be separate denominations or churches. Beautiful music on its own is wonderful. But beautiful music in praise of the Lord lends an entirely different power that’s not present simply with beautiful music.”

Long-time participants include choirs from First Baptist, First Christian, First Methodist, and First Presbyterian Churches, all in Washington. Newly involved is the choir of Chocowinity’s Trinity Episcopal Church. Also a long-time tradition is leadership from “outside clinicians” – musical directors with wide-ranging expertise. The event haws attracted nationally known college level choral faculty from as far as Kansas City and Knoxville, as well as more regional, but still nationally known, choral faculty members from ECU and Gardner Webb University near Charlotte.

This year’s program includes its traditional components and several new features.  Beth Clark of First Christian Church will direct a bell choir performance by eight school-aged members of Trinity Episcopal, First Methodist and First Christian Churches. Expenses for printed program music, hired instrumentalists, bell choir expenses, and catering for participants’ rehearsals will continue to be supplied by the Roberson-Bagwell Endowment Fund, headquartered at First Christian Church. Performances will include orchestra, two pianos, organ, hand-bells, combined choir and congregational singing. Selections of sacred music, plus traditional and modern hymn sets will be offered, according to First Baptist’s 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 for more titles, Davis said “come and be surprised.”

This year’s guest clinician is Leslie Hill of Knoxville, Tennessee, who began studying piano as a young child. She accompanied her school choirs starting from fourth grade through college graduation, then spent 14 years teaching high school music, simultaneously serving as pianist for local churches. Hill is now Director of Music Ministries at Fountain City United Methodist Church. “Having professionals from somewhere else, to add to the education of the choir process, is a rare benefit. They confirm what we’ve been teaching the here and unify all the choirs that participate,” Washington resident, Sally Love, an original co-founder of the community choir said.

Even more than music, the fellowship created by mixed church groups is predicted to be heavenly, with adjectives also including “wonderful, uplifting, fun, and educational.” She noted. Davis said “something like this, an opportunity to have a mass choir and have a choral technician like Leslie Hill work with us to meld and cause all our voice to blend in a really heavenly and majestic way, is rare around here.” Clark said participants have “different denominations and slightly different interpretations of what it means to be a Christian, yet we can come together in song and fellowship, united by our faith of God and our love of music.” Love said the blessing is also “in the coming together. In a parking lot we are the most disparate looking group of people… but then we come together on stage with some music in front of us and glorious things can happen.” 

For more information, contact Beth Clark at or First Christian Church at 252-946-4293.