History of the Greenwood Festival Chorale by Charles T. Gaines, Founding Conductor
The Greenwood Festival Chorale has developed from singers who responded to an invitation to join together in the early 1990’s to prepare a program for the American Guild of Organists at its February/March choral event. Dr. Charles T. Gaines, then Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church in Greenwood, invited the choirs of First Baptist and Main Street United Methodist to join with the adult choir at First Presbyterian to rehearse on Sunday afternoons in January and February to prepare a program of sacred choral works. The Greenwood Festival Chorale began in 1995 when Dr. Gaines, asked the directors of the adult choirs of the Greenwood First Baptist Church and Main Street United Methodist Church to join with First Presbyterian’s choir in a Choral Vespers that was sponsored by the Greenwood Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. That performance was on Sunday, February 5, 1995 at 4:00 PM at First Baptist Church. The program was “The Music of Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn, and Rutter.” Rehearsals were mainly held on Sunday afternoons. The combined chorus numbered 93 singers. The program listed the following works: Vivaldi – Gloria; Mozart – Gloria, and Ave verum corpus; Haydn – The Heavens are telling; and Rutter – The Lord Bless You and Keep You. Soloists were selected from the participating choirs. They were Ann Hutto, Jean Wood, Kelly Kirkpatrick, Reel Robertson, Jean Gaines, Jack Jennings, and Loren Pinkerman. Robert P. Glick was organist. A nineteen-member Festival Orchestra and the organ accompanied the combined choirs. Dr. Elbert Adams, respected doctor and organist of First Baptist Church, wrote a letter to the editor of the Index-Journal saying how much he had enjoyed the concert and gave encouraging words that “such a group should continue” His wish came true. There were combined choirs (including the Laurens County Chorale) that gave an annual concert in January or February of 1996, 1997, 1998and 1999. These combined choir programs were held at First Baptist Church. Interest in the group spread and other churches joined in the concerts. The group sang its annual program with the name The Festival Chorus in 1997 accompanied by The Festival Orchestra. In 1998 the Greenwood Festival Chorale and Festival Orchestra presented Brahms’ Requiem with guest soloists Kathleen Vandekieft (Presbyterian College) and Bruce Schoonmaker (Furman University.) Robert Glick was organist for the concerts of the combined groups.
At the intermission of the Choral Vespers on February 28, 1999, Dr. Gaines asked the group if they would like to continue “year round.” The answer was a resounding “Yes.” Gaines suggested that the group might venture into music such as Broadway tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein and that proved to be an attractive beginning of what is now the Greenwood Festival Chorale. Gaines went to Frank Cuda, then Executive Director of the SC Festival of Flowers and proposed the Rodgers and Hammerstein concert as a possible event during the Festival of Flowers summer schedule. Mr. Cuda liked the idea and gave the go ahead. And so, on Tuesday, June 8, 1999, the Greenwood Festival Chorale presented A Rodgers & Hammerstein Evening at the Cultural Center Auditorium at Lander University. Sixty-two singers and a twenty-five piece orchestra performed to a full house. Thus began the chorale’s story. The chorale has been fortunate to have two excellent pianists from the very beginning. Martha Beaudrot, native of Greenwood and an excellent piano teacher and performer, served as accompanist from the beginning (1995) until a move to Greenville ended her tenure in June of 2007. Dawn Driggers, who had recently moved to Clinton and became the pianist of the Laurens County Chorale, became the accompanist. Mr. Robert P. Glick, organist at First Presbyterian Church and Professor of Music and Worship at Erskine Theological Seminary and College provided organ accompaniments for the chorale’s concerts for the Sundays @ Four (now Festiva) series at First Presbyterian Church.
Dr. Gaines retired from the Greenwood Festival Chorale on June 15, 2012 at the Festival of Flowers concert. His final program – Bulls, Anvils, and Ships – featured opera choruses, Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes, Gilbert & Sullivan operetta favorites and American works. Following the concert Dr. Gaines was honored with a Memory Book of letters from Chorale members and others in the community. He was also given a scrapbook of concert programs and articles from newspapers. The chorale framed the bright concert poster and singers signed it on the matting. Tom Wood (substituting for Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams) read a Proclamation from the Mayor of Greenwood making “June 15, 2012 ‘Dr. Charles T. Gaines Day’ in celebration of his contributions to the City of Greenwood through the arts.” Representative Gene Pinson presented a Resolution from the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives honoring “Dr. Charles T. Gaines, Founder and Conductor of the Greenwood Festival Chorale, upon the occasion of his retirement, after seventeen years of outstanding and talented service, and to wish him continued success and happiness in all his future endeavors.” Denise Waldrep, Greenwood artist and an alto in the Chorale, presented Dr. Gaines with a framed portrait. The Chorale also announced that Bob Glick had been commissioned to write a composition in honor of Dr. Gaines, based on a text selected by Gaines. This work – “O come, Let Us Sing to the Lord” – will be premiered by the Greenwood Festival Chorale at its concert on December 11, 2012. Over the years Gaines has introduced the singers to a variety of styles and periods. Under his direction the Festival Chorale has presented three concerts each year – the annual Christmas program in December, a program of sacred anthems, oratorios and great hymns of the church in March, and the annual Festival of Flowers concert in June. Among composers found in these programs dating back to 1999 include Rodgers & Hammerstein, Bach, Sweelinck, Palestrina, Rutter, Susa, Larsen, Mechem, Beethoven, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Gwyneth Walker, Cole Porter, folk songs from around the world, and other American writers. Major choral/orchestral works included Handel – Messiah, Bach – Sleepers, Wake!, Beethoven – Mass in C, Brahms – A German Requiem, Mendelssohn – Elijah, Haydn – The Creation, Rutter – Requiem, and Faure – Requiem. At least one program per year featured works with orchestra accompaniment. The singers always looked forward to working with an orchestra. Submitted by Charles T. Gaines, December 3, 2012
Robert P. Glick was selected as the Artistic Director/Conductor to succeed Gaines in June 2012. Mr. Glick had a strong relationship with the Chorale over the previous years of its existence. He was accompanist on every program (except one) that called for organ accompaniments including several concerts prior to the official beginning of the Greenwood Festival Chorale in 1999. His organ registrations are noted for their color and support. He has directed choirs at First Presbyterian Church (Greenville, SC) and in Pennsylvania. During his Erskine College tenure he was accompanist for its choral programs on campus and on tour. The Chorale board was fortunate to have Mr. Glick accept its offer to lead the chorale. He provided superior leadership for the Chorale from June 2012 through June 10, 2014 when he submitted his resignation. The selection committee recommended a Guest Artistic Director and Conductor for the Christmas concert in 2014 until a new permanent leader was found. Dr. Ron Davis was selected to guest conduct and direct the 2014 Christmas program on December 16, 2014. See his credentials and picture in the August 2014 post, click here.
A replacement was named on January 1, 2015. Dr. Marion Smith was named the Artistic Director and Conductor for 2015 and beyond. The Greenwood Festival Chorale welcomed Dr. Marion Smith as the new Artistic Director and Conductor in January 2015. After retiring as Professor of Music at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, for 27 years, Dr. Smith has returned to Greenwood, where he established roots when he was Assistant Professor of Music at Lander University from 1984-1987. Dr. Smith founded the Greenwood Civic Chorale during his tenure at Lander. Dr. Smith was an accomplished conductor of choral and handbell music and is also talented as a performer. His gifts and experience enriched the Greenwood Festival Chorale and the community.
Steve Skinner is a native of California who received his Bachelor of Music Education from the Conservatory of Music — University of the Pacific, and Master of Music (Church Music) from Biola University/Talbot Theological Seminary. In addition to a career in pipe organ building and service, Steve has been a music minister in Baptist, Grace Brethren, and Presbyterian Churches, guest conductor of the Sacred Song Service at Chautauqua Institution, and conductor/cantor of the Erie Bach Vespers. He moved from Erie, PA to Greenwood in September of 2016 to become the Director of Music Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Greenwood, where he oversees a music program of adult, youth and children’s vocal choirs, and 2 handbell choirs. Steve also directs the community handbell choir, Emerald Bells. In the summer of 2017, Steve agreed to step in as Interim Artistic Director & Conductor for the Greenwood Festival Chorale for their Christmas concert. In January 2018 Steve will become the new Artistic Director & Conductor of the Greenwood Festival Chorale.