WINTER HAVEN – A small local church choir is heading to the Big Apple to perform on one of the world’s grandest stages.
The Beymer Memorial United Methodist Church Chancel Choir will make its way to New York City this week to perform at Carnegie Hall. The trip will last from Wednesday through Nov. 20.
“It’s a thrilling once-in-a-lifetime experience that I really wanted our folks to take part in,” said Jason Locker, the church’s chancel choir director. “It’s quite phenomenal and we are very excited.”
The church, along with several others, got the invite to Carnegie Hall in January after a performance at Hope Presbyterian Church with several other local churches. In attendance was Mark Hayes, a composer and award-winning pianist, who invited the local churches.
“My understanding is we’re the only ones who had the interest to go,” Locker said. “Just for us to be part of this is special.”
The church will be among many from across the country to perform and will do so Nov. 19. Locker said it’s not strictly a business trip as members will also visit the 9/11 memorial, the Statue of Liberty and take in some musicals.
In total, the choir has about 25 members. Member Joe Jones and his wife, Anita, will be among 24 people – 18 singers and six spouses – headed to New York.
“It’s an honor to be asked,” Jones said. “It’s going to be a neat trip. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Jones was a choir director at Winter Haven High School for 30 years and marched with his students in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1994. Jones never envisioned that would be topped, but a trip to Carnegie Hall might just do that.
“It’s kind of the ultimate deal, but I never really thought it was possible,” he said. “It’s another performance, but it’ll be taken up a notch.”
Jones said many of the songs that the members will perform are well-known to those familiar with church hymns. During the performance, the choir members will sing in several different languages, including Spanish, French, Czech and Polish. About a month later, the choir will give the same performance for its annual Christmas show that takes place at the church, 700 N. Lake Howard Drive, on Dec. 17.
“It’s music from all over the world,” Jones said. “The work we’re doing will be in five sections. It’ll be exciting.”
As for Locker, this won’t be his first Carnegie Hall performance. Locker, also the choir director at Bloomingdale High School in Valrico, has been a musical director for 17 years and in 2006, he took a group of students from West Boca Raton High School. In 2010, he performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
“Carnegie Hall is kind of the most quintessentially known hall in the world,” he said. “It’s surreal to think you’ll stand on the same stage as so many legends who have come before. When you first walk out on the stage, it takes your breath away. I want that experience for our choir membership as well.”
Mike Ferguson can be reached at Mike.Ferguson@directgates.com or 863-401-6981. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.