The 2008 Louisiana Baptist All-State Youth Choir performed in concert July 27 at First Baptist Church of Pineville.
PINEVILLE – The 2008 Louisiana Baptist All-State Youth Choir performed in concert July 27 at First Baptist Church of Pineville.
It was the final performance of the 25th annual All-State Youth Choir tour, which this year took 84 students and their sponsors to Tennessee and back.
As if to highlight the significance of the 25th anniversary, Kristin Theriot of Springfield was recognized as the first of the second generation of choir members. Her parents – David and Leah Theriot – both performed in the All-State Youth Choir when they were in their teens.
“I love singing and I wanted a reason to praise God with a group of people who wanted to praise Him as much as I,” said Emma Meek of Broadmoor Baptist in Shreveport, explaining why she took the time from her summer to be part of the choir. Her most memorable moment of the tour was not singing, however.
“Sharing Christ one on one,” she said. “That was the best part.”
The choir deliberately set engagements at locations where nonChristians perhaps would hear them, said Herb Armentrout, tour organizer and youth music consultant for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. The Louisiana All-State Youth Choir sang in three churches, but also in malls, a youth correctional facility, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and at a Nashville Sounds baseball game as well as other outdoor venues.
After their performances, the choir members would fan out among the audience, to engage them in conversations that could lead to witnessing encounters. While specific numbers were not kept, “dozens of people” made professions of faith, said Courtney Sulver of First Baptist Minden, in her fourth year as part of the All-State Youth Choir.
“This is something I can do that I always wanted to – sing,” Sulver said. “Our theme was to share the love of Christ with those who do not know, and that made us know we had a purpose. We weren’t just there to sing.”
The All-State Choir has a theme every year, but this year it was emphasized more than in some years, explained Randy Turner, LBC music leadership strategist. His assistant, Kathy Doolittle, handled logistics for the tour.
Tom Lott directed the All-State Choir for 18 years. To honor him, a scholarship was begun last year – funded by offerings taken up by the Louisiana Baptist Singing Men and Singing Women – for one graduating senior to use at the college of his/her choice. Katie Boles of Kingsville Baptist in Pineville, was selected by All-State Youth Choir sponsors to receive this year’s scholarship.
Stephen Holcomb was this year’s director. Holcomb is the director of choral studies at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas. Holcomb told the audience of his pleasure at working with the choir.
“You should all be very proud of what they have done for the Kingdom of God,” Holcomb told the audience, which nearly filled the First Pineville worship center.
Kathy McGrath, pianist for First Baptist Natchitoches, was accompanist during the tour.
“We are deeply indebted to our director, Dr. Stephen Holcomb, and accompanist Kathy McGrath, our wonderful sponsors, our state music strategist, Randy Turner, and his ministry assistant, Kathy Doolittle,” Armentrout wrote in the program. “These people have invested a great deal of love, time and energy in these students, and the reward is evidenced by the choir standing before you.”
The repertoire performed by the choir was not quite “old standards” nor “classical,” but rather well-known hymns, for the most part, sung in a classical manner: A Mighty Fortress, God So Loved The World, Amazing Grace, Fairest Lord Jesus – even You Raise Me Up and the African O Sifuni Mungu. And starting out the evening’s performance at First Pineville, a “high church” version of The Star-Spangled Banner.
The repertoire was selected to provide the choir members with something new, Turner said after the concert.
“We want to introduce the kids to a level of music they might not have in church or school,” the music leadership strategist explained.
“The challenge for them was in learning all this music in 48 hours,” Director Holcomb said.
“In addition to this, Herb helped give direction to them developing an active witness to the people they were singing for,” Turner added.
“We were very intensive in setting up concerts where the people didn’t have a relationship with Christ,” Armentrout said. “It was a very exciting tour. The dynamic testimony of 84 students made an eternal difference in the lives of many many people.”
Why did 84 students go on tour, not 75 or 100, or even 87?
“They’re the ones God called,” Armentrout answered.
Moving from reporting to reviewing, the choir sounded astonishingly professional. Every eye riveted nearly every moment on their director, the All-State Choir sang as with one clear voice, every word understandable.
An ensemble stepped out during several selections, and some individuals in that group sang solos. Katie Boles’ performance warrants extra attention. Her voice was as clear as the water in a Rocky Mountain stream high above treeline. It cascaded with purity, sweetness and innocence, and her face glowed with those same qualities. It’s easy to see why she was chosen as the Tom Lott scholarship recipient.
The first night the choir gathered to learn their music, they let off steam by putting on a talent show, the director explained before the performance began. Four were chosen to be included as part of the repertoire; one of which was performed at each locale except for First Pineville, when all four were presented.
David Daniels of Heflin stood out for almost the opposite reason as did Katie Boles. How could a boy that young have a voice that old, that rich and resonant and deep and vibrant? He sang The Sun’s Gonna Rise and Shine, but it was his voice that took the tune to the crowd-pleasing country-western ballad over the top.
One or both of these young people – and for that matter, the entire All-State Youth Choir – would be tremendous additions to the annual meeting of the Louisiana Baptist Convention this November.
This was the second year Ryan Barker of Temple Baptist in Ruston was part of the All-State choir. He had a simple reason for doing so.
“I wanted to reunite with old friends,” he said. What was his most memorable moment? “The Gaylord Opryland Hotel, or whatever the name was. That’s the nicest hotel I ever stayed in,” Barker said.
Who knows what hotel the 2009 All-State Youth Choir will be staying in. The only thing being told at this time is that they will be traveling to Colorado Springs, Colo., home to the Royal Gorge, Air Force Academy, and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family organization. It’s a Christian-friendly place, with more than 50 ministries headquartered there because of tax breaks offered by the city to an industry city officials determined was “non-polluting.”
For more on the 2009 All-State Youth Choir, contact Herb Armentrout or Kathy Doolittle at the LBC music leadership department, 318.448.3402 or 800.622.6549.