A multitude of voices to make sacred music

Hymn: On Sunday, Glen Mar United Methodist Church will present its 10th Choirfest - about 75 singers from five churches performing religious music.

November 02, 2001|By Jean Leslie | Jean Leslie,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Music Ministries Director Carolyn "Carrie" Grams started working at Ellicott City's Glen Mar United Methodist Church in 1989, one of the first things she started planning was the Choirfest.

"I learned about the concert series in a conference," says Grams. "Dick and Sandy Nelson of the music ministry at St. John's United Methodist in Columbia joined with us the first year," said Grams. "I was interested in providing an opportunity for singers in small churches to sing with a large choir. It's a greatly uplifting feeling to sing with a large group."

On Sunday, Glen Mar United Methodist will present its 10th Choirfest, a festival of sacred music featuring about 75 singers, a six-piece brass ensemble, three percussionists, piano and organ, and the Glen Mar church's handbell choir.

Also, the congregation will sing traditional Methodist hymns.

Four other churches are participating: Brooklyn Heights United Methodist in Brooklyn Park, Ascension Evangelical Lutheran in Towson, St. John's United Methodist in Lutherville and Severna Park United Methodist.

Making music

"Carrie throws everything into her music," says Gail Carter, who with Grams coordinates the event. "She took our church from two choirs to 13 choirs in those years of rapid growth."

Carter said that Glen Mar choirs toured in 1992 and in 1996. During the past 10 years, she said, the Glen Mar choirs have recorded three compact discs.

"To be in the choir," Grams said, "we go to church every Sunday and a couple of nights a week, and the music has enhanced my faith.

"Our pastor, Andy Lund, is one of the most gifted pastors around," she said. "But to lift my voice is a whole different experience. And when I sit to listen and hear how we're worshiping with the music, I am touched. It's ethereal."

"We look forward to Choirfest," says Brian Winter, director of Music Ministries in the 2,100-member Severna Park United Methodist. "We'll be doing some wonderful choral music."

Winter is particularly pleased about the repertoire.

"All the music directors selected the repertoire together, so the music is a good fit for our groups," he said. "Our church selected `Come Celebrate' to be used as a processional and `The Lord Bless You and Keep You,' to be used as a benediction.

"One of the blessings of an event like this is that we are the beneficiary of learning others' favorite music," Winter said.

Choirfest is free to the public. An offering will be taken to support the work of Howard County's Congregations Concerned for the Homeless.

Expansion plans

The growth in the congregation - 1,500 members - and in the music program is driving the church to build a larger worship space and to move.

"We have recently been forced to hold Easter and Christmas services in a local high school because we can't fit everyone into our current sanctuary," Carter said.

"In the next two years, we are planning to have a multipurpose area for 1,000 people built on 22 acres on Route 103," said Carter, who, with her background in architecture and construction, is spearheading the relocation committee.

Choirfest is a lot of work for the singers. Not only do they have to learn music for their regular Sunday services, but they also have to practice with the others in the churches participating in the festival.

"It is so consuming," said Carter. "But no singer leaves without feeling, `Wasn't this cool. I would have never missed it for all the world.'"

Choirfest will be held at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Glen Mar United Methodist Church, 8430 Glen Mar Road, near Route 103. Information: 410- 465-4995.

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