Men's Choruses from California Minister Through Song
Music aficionado Art Garbutt has sung in choirs and choruses throughout his adult life. Yet he never expected to coordinate a combined chorus comprised of six talented groups and 110 God-praising men from the Northern, Central, Southern and Southeastern California conferences.
But that’s what happened on Nov. 6 at the Men’s Chorus Festival, held at the Carmichael church in Sacramento. The event drew a pew-filling, folding-chair-sitting, standing-room-only audience of about 900 people.
“I had no idea it would turn out to be something so involved,” Garbutt said. “And I’m glad it has evolved that way because it has become an outreach and a ministry for each of the individual groups that comes here.”
Garbutt organized his first men’s chorus festival in 2003, with just three groups. The 2004 festival had six, the 2005 festival featured four, and the most recent, in 2007, attracted five.
The 2010 turnout was boosted by a professional Southern California men’s chorus, Christian Edition, directed by Calvin Knipschild, whose 21 nationally touring members sang side-by-side with less experienced vocalists from five church-based groups.
The groups and their leaders included: Bakersfield Hillcrest Men’s Chorus (Judy Houston), Modesto Praise Men’s Chorus (Gordon de Leon), Sonora Community Christian Men’s Chorus (Rod Kerbs), Carmichael Men’s Chorus (Art Garbutt), and Bay Area Men’s Chorus (Milton Wheeler).
Steven Baker of Sonora, one of 30 baritones, said he experienced a difficult-to-describe “deep, down joy” singing with so many talented individuals, especially when Knipschild was directing.
“I love his philosophy,” Baker said. “You need to be delivering a message when you’re singing — a sermon. For him it needs to be worship.”
The free concert opened with six songs by the combined chorus, which had gathered for the first time the night before. Previously, each group had been practicing for months. In addition, each director selected two songs for the combined chorus to sing, and took turns leading out. Each group also performed on its own.
Knipschild said audience members afterward repeatedly conveyed the same message to him: “That was the most spiritual program I’ve attended.”
“The Festival was a great experience, a glimpse of the praise that we will sing around the throne," said Carmichael Men’s Chorus member Dan Carr, about singing with the 110-man group. "The chorus members were blessed to sing and share praises to our God.”
As Garbutt starts to plan the 2011 festival, he’s realizing that Carmichael — one of the largest churches in the Pacific Union — may be too small a venue. On the upside: if the festival moves to a public auditorium, the concert can witness to more people from the community.