Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 15, 2011

A night of music

Choir festival offers quality entertainment for good cause

The Independent

ASHLAND — If you enjoy Christian choral music, you will love tonight’s fourth annual Church Choir Festival at the Paramount Arts Center. Not only will you hear some of the best church choirs in Boyd and Greenup counties, but you will learn that not all choirs are alike. Their styles will range from traditional choral music, to Southern gospel, to upbeat, hand-clapping contemporary tunes.

While enjoying the music, you will be supporting the work of the Hillcrest-Bruce Mission on Eloise Street near the large Bruce and Hillcrest low-income apartment complexes. The choir festival is the largest community fundraising project for the mission, started 40 yeas ago by Ashland’s four United Methodist churches — First, South Ashland, Christ and Centenary — and supported by the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Choirs participation in tonight’s festival — which begins at 7:30 p.m. — are from Advance, South Ashland and First United Methodist churches, Grassland Community Church, First Baptist Church of Russell, Unity Baptist Church and Wildwood First Church of God.

Despite the number of choirs, the concert moves quickly with each choir taking only a few minutes to get on and off the Paramount stage. All sing from recorded music. This is a well organized event that would be the envy of many professional groups.

There is no charge for admission to the festival, but an offering is taken to support the Hillcrest-Bruce Mission. What — and if — people give is their choice.

Randy Loschert, who retired after more than 20 years as manager of the Sherwin- Williams Paint store in Ashland, was named executive director of the Hillcrest-Bruch Mission earlier this year, replacing long-time director Cyndi Downing, who started the choir festival.

While giving area music lovers a chance to hear talented singers who normally perform only in their own churches, the choir festival has provided an additional benefit for the mission.

In an interview prior to leaving Ashland to join her husband in his new job overseas, Downing said the mission has gotten scores of new volunteers and supporters as a direct result of the choir festival. No longer viewed as just a mission of the United Methodist Church, volunteers from a variety of different denominations have joined the mission in its work in this community, Downing said.

 That’s why Loschert said while the choir festival is a fundraiser, “more than anything it is an awareness raiser.”

Quietly tucked away on a side street that is cul-de-sac, many area residents have little or no idea what the Hillcrest-Bruce Mission does or even know it exists. But for four decades, the mission has played an important role in meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of lower income residents, particularly those who live in west Ashland. By bringing choirs from a variety of churches together for one event, the festival has helped expand the mission’s horizons.

Tonight’s festival is sponsored by Artsreach Kentucky and the Paramount Arts Center, which covers most of the cost of renting the large theater. That means that the money donated tonight will go to the important work of the mission.

However, in addition to helping the mission, the festival is a great way to hear a lot of good music at an affordable cost. It is quality entertainment for a good cause.