Striking a triumphal chord

Striking a triumphal chord

All-male chorus in fifth year

By Gary Huffenberger

From left are John Naylor and Jon Walt during practice.

Practice means polishing the musical presentation for the next performance. In the front row from left are Bill Creager and Bill Cupp; in the middle row from left are Harry Brumbaugh, Richard Taylor, Jim Faust and Larry Milstead; and in the back row from left are Gene Breckel, Kevin Ellis, Jerry Sewell and an unidentified man partly hidden.

The Unified Christian Men’s Chorus, minus a few members who were unable to make it for the photograph.

Men from at least 18 congregations blend their voices in the Unified Christian Men’s Chorus, producing a full sound rarely heard inside or outside church.

The chorus includes two former Ohio State University Glee Club members, and, according to one of them, the chorus is comprised of a good mix of small-town folk and country people. The 35 men hail from churches located in Clinton, Fayette and Highland counties.

This is the chorus’ fifth year, and its ranks have grown since its first year when there were about 25 participants, said retired insurance agent and the chorus founder/director Bob Pittser.

Before moving to Wilmington in 2010, Pittser resided in Fayette County where he led a men’s chorus for the Washington Court House South Side Church of Christ during his last three or four years there.

Moreover, he and his wife Meda are graduates of Lynchburg schools and grew up in Highland County. So, they knew people in Fayette, Highland and Clinton counties, something which would help when the chorus was in the recruiting stage.

The Pittsers began attending the Wilmington Church of Christ, which Bob describes as a fairly large church, and he thought it “would be neat to try for three counties.”

Meda can play piano by ear or notes, and they figured between their musical experience and the people they knew, a three-county, all-male singing group was within reach.

But starting a regional chorus is one thing; keeping it going and growing it into its fifth year is another. Perhaps one key to the chorus continuing despite many men needing to drive a distance to the Wilmington practice site, is Bob schedules just a few concerts and keeps the number of practice sessions to a minimum.

This year, they have five performances and 10 practices each lasting 90 minutes.

“We don’t wear them out,” Bob said.

Besides, though Bob can be “a bit of a taskmaster,” said Meda, he has a good sense of humor.

“There is a lot of camaraderie and a lot of fun at practice,” she said.

When chorus member Jim Faust was in college, he was part of the OSU Glee Club’s baritone section. And some area people remember him as one of four farm boys who comprised the well-regarded Pricetown Men’s Quartet. Nowadays, he drives about 30 miles to chorus practice from his farm in southwest Highland County.

While his career has been in agriculture, Faust said singing is a major part of his life.

He feels chorus members convey a message that they really love singing for the Lord. The audience members, he hopes, come away from the concerts thinking it was time well spent and these are men dedicated to praising God.

Bill Creager was in the Ohio State Glee Club in 1960, and has been a part of the Unified Christian Men’s Chorus from its start in 2013.

“I just love to sing. And the guys are really, really nice guys,” Creager said.

In the chorus’ set list, some are done strictly by the book, said Meda, but other times they take traditional hymns and turn them into something different. For example, “Washed in the Blood” is much faster than usual.

“Generally, I’d say our men love upbeat songs,” Meda said.

There were 18 songs in this summer’s concerts. They include “Jesus Is a Rock in a Weary Land,” “Beulah Land,” “Soon and Very Soon,” “Church in the Wildwood,” “Jericho Road,” “Blessed Assurance” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

There are a number of denominations represented among the members of the chorus, including Baptist, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Catholic, a former Presbyterian, and the largest contingent, Church of Christ.

“That’s why it’s called Unified Christian Men’s Chorus: We want all Christians. We want to emphasize the fact we need to be unified and not split. We want to stress the similarities, not the differences,” said Meda.

In honor of veterans, the Unified Christians Men’s Chorus will present a Murphy Theatre concert starting 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, the day after Veterans Day. Though tickets are required, this is a free event, presented by Ohio Living Cape May, in cooperation with New Sabina Industries. Limit 4 tickets per transaction. Reserve your tickets now.

Salt Magazine

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