St. John's endeavors to offer a balance of musical styles, but the overall character of our music falls within the perimeters of traditional Anglican choral music. Recognizing that our purpose is ministry, rather than performance, we strive for excellence in all that we do. A meaningful worship experience cannot come out of poor preparation and, as has been said by so many, God is deserving of nothing less than our best.
The Senior Choir practices on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 - 7:30 (mid-August - May) and sings at the 10:30 a.m. service on Sundays. The choir also sings for various special services throughout the year, such as those liturgies associated with the seasons of Advent/Christmas (Advent Lessons and Carols, two services on Christmas Eve) and Lent/Easter (Tenebrae on Wednesday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday evening service, Good Friday noon service, two services on Easter Day).
As opportunities arise, we participate in diocesan choral events. In recent years, St. John's choir members were part of the Anglican Celebration Choir, a combined diocesan choir that performed at Piccolo Spoletto, and joined with Episcopal choristers throughout the state to sing at Washington National Cathedral for South Carolina State Day in 2003. St. John's choir had the opportunity to sing again at the Cathedral for the 2007 SC State. Our singers joined with singers from All Saints' Episcopal Church (Florence), St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Conway), Darlington Presbyterian Church (Darlington), and Columbia's Árpád Darázs Singers to present a program of unaccompanied sacred music prior to the Cathedral's primary service.
St. John's sponsors a regional choir workshop every autumn. The workshop is geared toward members of small church choirs in the Pee Dee region and throughout the Diocese of SC. Organist/composer Robert Powell was the clinician for the first of these workshops in September 2004. Subsequent clinicians included Dr. Scott Bennett, Organist and Master of the Choirs at Grace Church in Charleston and internationally known concert organist; tenor and voice teacher Erick Figueras; and Dr. Sonja Sepulveda, Professor of Choral Music at Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, GA; and Dr. Jared Johnson, Canon Organist and Choirmaster of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia.
In May 2006, we celebrated the premiere of a commissioned anthem with a hymn festival. The choir commissioned composer James Biery to write an anthem - based on Habukkuk 3:3b, 17-19a - in memory of recently deceased choir members. Mr. Biery conceived the hymn festival and served as organist/conductor for the event. (The anthem is titled "Yet I Will Rejoice in the Lord" and is available from MorningStar Music.)
In the summer of 2009, the Music Ministry initiated Choir Camp, a week-long session that offers classes in music reading and vocal technique for area church choir members. The fall of 2009 saw the institution of a weekly sight-singing class for the same target group. In 2010, camp staff and class offerings grew from two to five.
The choir takes vacation during the month of June (after Pentecost). Professional caliber guest musicians provide prelude and offertory music on those Sundays. During July and the first two weeks of August, the choir rehearses at 9:30 on Sunday mornings. Wednesday rehearsals resume in mid-August.
New singers are always welcome. Though it helps to be able to read music, it is not a requirement. Members are expected to attend rehearsal on a regular basis and to be present when the choir is scheduled to sing for a service. Those interested in joining the choir are asked to call Tammy Williams at 662-5585.
Children's and Junior Choirs
The fall of 2012 marked the restoration of a choir for children ages 4-6. The junior choir (ages 8 and up) entered its third season. Both choirs practice on Sundays from 2:45-3:45.
This fledgling group is in its second season. Though currently comprised of adults, hanbell choir is open to anyone age 10 and up. It is strongly recommended that ringers have basic music reading skills. Practice is on Sundays from 2:45-3:45.
Guest instrumentalists join the choir as dictated by the music or liturgy. We are blessed to be able to call upon professional musicians and professional-caliber student musicians who play oboe, trumpet, strings, and flute. We also endeavor to provide opportunites for young parish musicians to play. Such opportunities provide them with good performance experience, as well as a means by which to offer their time and talent to the parish.
In February 2006, St. John's initiated a new annual event: St. John's Epiphany Concert Series. Presented on the Sundays of the Epiphany season, these 45-60 minute concerts are offered to the community free of charge. Refreshments and fellowship follow. Concert-goers have described the Series as "a wonderful gift to the community." The Series is supported solely through donations by parishioners and at-the-door contributions.
In its inaugural season, guest musicians included The Firenze String Quartet; The Francis Marion University Gospel Choir ("Young, Gifted and Blessed"); and the soprano/tenor husband and wife team, Eric and Erin Figueras. 2007 Series guests were the Savannah Grove Gospel Choir, the Assembly Saxophone Quartet (from USC), classical guitarist Christopher Berg, and the Coker College Chamber Singers. 2008 guests included La Catrina String Quartet, Zefiro Flute Trio, and the Árpád Darázs Singers.
2009 offered the most ambitious Series schedule to date. Pianists William Mills, Beverly Hazelwood, and Benjamin Woods kicked off the season with a concert that served to dedicate a new piano. Their appearance was followed by the Sandlapper Singers, Hartsville Chamber Ensemble, baritone-bass Jacob Will, Columbia Baroque Soloists, and La Catrina Quartet. The day before the concert, La Catrina Quartet offered an all-day masterclass for approximately 30 area string students.
The fifth season opened with a performance by pianist Benjamin Woods that was presented in memory of beloved parishioner Finley Lucas. The slate rounded out with concerts by soprano April Boyett, Florence Friends of Chamber Music (string trio with flute), the USC Concert Choir, and oboist Claire Compton.
The 2011 slate was comprised of: Constantine Finehouse and Olga Caceanova (piano and violin), pianist Paolo Gualdi, St. Mary's School Chorale, USC Trombone Collective, baritone Alexander Elliott, and Ludlamshole (Drs. Jim and Karen Buckland, piano and classical guitar).
The seventh season boasted several powerhouse performances. The slate was as follows: Drs. Clifford Leaman and Joseph Rackers (saxophone, piano); Fire Pink Trio (viola, flute, harp); Dr. Julia Harlow (organ); Drs. Paolo and Danijela Gualdi (piano, violin); and the Carolina Brass.
The 2013 slate consists of Richard Thomas and Nathan Fryml (cello, piano), Blue Mountain Ensemble (flute, bassoon, piano), Jazz Charleston Trio, and Lana Duo (soprano, piano).