A musical experiment begun by a retired dentist in the 1990s is celebrating its fifth anniversary as the Columbia County Choral Society prepares for another season.
"My wife and I had this very strong urge to see a choral society established," Earl Williams said. "We knew the Kearns and knew of their talents and we knew Jack was retiring as music minister of First Baptist Church of Sylvania. When we approached Jack in his retirement from Sylvania, he said he would be interested in being the director."
Jack Kearns accepted the directorship of the society, and an inaugural concert was held in June 1997 at First Baptist Church of Evans. Since then, Kearns has stepped down as director for health reasons, but he is never far from offering support and assistance to the group.
"I get to rehearsals fairly often," said Kearns, who today serves as the choral society's executive director. "I attend rehearsals and perform in concerts when my health permits."
"We knew there would be some lean times, so there was going to have to be a lot of love," Williams said.
The Columbia County Choral Society entertained the crowd with Christmas carols
during the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in December.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
With members spreading the word and the community supporting the society, the lean times didn't seem so bad, nor did they dim the hopes of people such as Williams and Kearns. Grants - such as the $1,000 grant recently presented to the group by The Georgia Council for the Arts - and money generated from concert fees assist in paying for music purchases, three part-time salaries and musician fees.
Today, the choral society has doubled its membership and performs two to three concerts each season. Current members range in age from 25 to 75 and are from all walks of life, including teachers, bankers and retirees among the countless professions represented. The group continues to seek and welcome new members.
A fall kickoff for the 2003-04 season will be 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at First Baptist Church of Evans. Isaac Holmes, who sang a solo baritone part with the chorus during last year's Seven Last Words, will take over as the society's interim director, following the resignation of Steve Patteson in June. Holmes, a music teacher at Paine College, will see the chorus through its Christmas season.
Prospective members are encouraged to attend the kickoff, said Kearns, adding that the only requirement to become a member is to attend three rehearsals and audition with a group of four to five others.
"It's a painless audition in that it doesn't put you on the spot," Kearns said. "We've never turned down a member, but we anticipate the time when we will have to have a formal audition. We hold auditions now so that we can say all of our members have gone through the audition process."
Williams and his wife are no longer officers of the choral society, but continue to sing with the group. 'We're not officers at the moment, but rather cheerleaders,' he said.
The group has performed some somewhat difficult classical pieces as part of their concerts, but Williams said the Elijah concert performed three years ago was the group's most far-reaching and challenging concert. Though the group performs religious music because much of the music it uses is borrowed from local churches, Williams and Kearns insist that the group is not a church organization.
"This is a community chorus," said Kearns, adding that most concerts are held at area churches, but the group will have a permanent home in the Evans library when it is built.
"There seems to be a much stronger community feeling," Kearns added, noting that there are three organized art groups in Columbia County. "A lot of it we feel came about because people in Columbia County realize they can now have their own art groups."
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