Local churches team up for Choirfest

About 60 singers put on free concert today

Posted: Sunday, March 05, 2000

At Saturday morning's rehearsal for ChoirFest 2000, one could hear the purposeful tread of Christian soldiers - or, at least, feet tapping the beat on the green carpet of Resurrection Lutheran Church.

Singers from Holy Trinity, Chapel by the Lake, Seventh Day Adventist, Cathedral of the Nativity, Glacier Valley Baptist and Northern Light United were ``getting their arms around the music,'' as Allan McKinnon, one of this year's conductors, put it.

``It's wonderful. It's lots of fun,'' said Sandy King of Glacier Valley Baptist. Ordinarily, King sings with The Messengers, a seven-member ensemble that performs all over Southeast. ChoirFest gives her an opportunity not only to sing with 60 other people, but also to be one of the piano accompanists.

The public can hear the finished musical product at 3 p.m. today at Northern Light United Church, 400 11th St. Child care will be provided and a free-will offering will be collected to cover costs and to support the Cooperative Church Council.

Juneau has witnessed about eight ChoirFests since the late 1980s, McKinnon said.

In its present format the separate choirs rehearse the notes and, just before the big event, they get together as a group under various conductors, including Sharon Hatch, whose 4-month-old baby avidly watched the proceedings.

Conductor Susan Horst directed, ``Draw out the words and make it as warm as possible.''

McKinnon directed, ``You need to think at a faster tempo,'' which got a laugh from the assembly. ``Tongue each note; pretend you are brass players,'' he urged them.

``It's a wonderful opportunity for the different churches to share music and words that they might not otherwise have an opportunity to connect with,'' McKinnon said. ``ChoirFest blends a wide variety of worship experiences, worship styles.''

At the beginning of the program, choirs perform individually. For the final four numbers, they form one large organism. Most Juneau choirs number only 10 to 20 singers, McKinnon said, so this concert is a unique experience.

Music chosen ranges from the liturgical to the evangelical, from ``Lift Every Voice and Sing,'' composed in 1921 by poet James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, which has become an African-American rallying cry; to a Hasidic melody, Yisrael V'oraita or ``Torah Song,'' fit to words titled ``The Church's Mission.''

The Juneau Brass and the Resurrection Lutheran Handbells will chime in on in some pieces.

Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy has joined ChoirFest for four years. Her flute accompanied one of Craig Courtney's ``Three Sacred Canticles,'' based on Bible passages from Psalms, Ephesians and Zephaniah referring to a singer and a listener.

Courtney's Movement I, ``I Am With You,'' thrilled Ruddy with its concluding dissonance - ``C sharp against D; it's a shimmer,'' she said.

Ruddy praised ChoirFest as ``a good opportunity for the Christian churches to unite in song.'' She added, ``This is such an amazing town for amateur music.''

Much of the singing was in unison, but occasionally harmony rose to the rafters. ``If there is harmony written in your song sheet and you want to go for it when you get to the refrain,'' said conductor Lena Simmons, ``then go for it, girl.''

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