‘Joy of singing’ still present as Lexington County Choral Society embarks on 20th season

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A local group of music enthusiasts have shared two decades of high notes, low notes, laughter, butterflies before performing and even international travel. They take the stage once more this weekend to begin the 20th season of the Lexington County Choral Society.

Founded by Harold and Linda Scott McIntosh, the LCCS filled a cultural gap in the Lexington community as evidenced by its rapid growth in the early days. Just 26 people attended the first audition, but that number nearly tripled one week later.

The first concert in December of 1996 featured 72 singers. By fall of the following year, the LCCS boasted 92 voices, and the group averages about 100 today.

“It’s a good time for all,” member Myron Corley said. “What unites us as a group is the joy of singing.”

McIntosh said he had no idea the LCCS would take off the way it did. He credited the local community for supporting the nonprofit with their donations and attendance.

“For an arts organization, every year we add is a bonus to bring arts and culture to the community,” he said.

Hours of rehearsal result in three concerts each season starting with a Christmas performance. The 20th season begins Friday at Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church, the LCCS’ current headquarters, but the church isn’t the only place people can hear the musical stylings of the group.

During its 20-year history, the LCCS has been invited to perform with the S.C. Philharmonic Orchestra, at Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, at the Koger Center for the Arts and in Italy in 2001.

“If you keep putting quality out there, people know the difference,” McIntosh said.

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McIntosh, LCCS’ conductor and a former music professor at Charleston Southern University and Columbia International University, arranged the 2-week trip during which the singers performed in five cities across Italy. Corley recalled how the group’s performance moved a group of nuns sitting in the front row to tears.

“To sing in a cathedral in Venice was wonderful … Music is an international language,” he said.

Corley said the singing tour is his favorite LCCS memory. Since most members are senior citizens, he said it was probably their “one and only big road trip.”

“(It was great) to go with 120 of your best friends … We were bringing (the Italian people) a bit of American music,” he said.

Some members’ favorite memories stem from performances for family and friends at home in Lexington. Longtime member Charlie Compton said he always fondly remembers the concert McIntosh arranged with everyone’s favorite pieces, his being “The Majesty and Glory.”

“Harold is the best choral conductor in the state,” he said. “And Sharon (Hudson Rattray) is the best accompanist bar none.”

Bringing music to people’s lives is Valerie Baker’s favorite aspect of the LCCS. After moving to the Lexington area in 2001, she joined the “first chance I got.”

“We practice for weeks and weeks, but when we perform (it’s the best),” Baker said. “The music inspires and encourages.”

The LCCS features many people who sign in church choirs, but it’s coming together for rehearsal and those three concerts a year that really get them excited.

“The opportunity to sing with 85 to 90 voices all at once is something most people don’t get to do,” Compton said.

“It gives people an outlet,” Baker agreed.

Corley added rehearsal after a bad day at work has lifted his own spirits on many on occasion.

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The LCCS has become part of the community by enhancing the culture and supporting the next generation. The group was the first in South Carolina to perform Dr. Timothy Powell’s “The Wedding Mass” in 2009, and students from multiple area high schools have performed as guest artists.

Every other year, the Lexington District One Children’s Honors Choir joins the LCCS for the Christmas concert. McIntosh said many kids have graduated to the LCCS, and he once again extended a personal invitation during Thursday’s rehearsal.

Two scholarship opportunities are in place to assist aspiring high school singers and pianists. The H. T. Lorick, Jr. Vocal Scholarship auditions occur in the fall of each year and the Sylvia E. Looney Piano Scholarship auditions in the spring, and winners receive a monetary award to help pay to prepare them for college auditions.  The LCCS also sponsors to two musical groups, the Lexington County Youth Choral and the Lake Murray Symphony Orchestra.

“The LCCS adds to the cultural landscape of Lexington County,” Corley said. “It’s a cultural opportunity for those who listen and sing.”

McIntosh’s focus for the next 20 years is to continue the LCCS’ quality.

“As the future unfolds, it’ll be great to see what other opportunities we receive,” he said.

The first concert of the season, The Beautful Sounds of Christmas, is happening Friday and Saturday with special guests from the Lexington District One Children’s Honors Choir and scholarship winners. Tickets can be purchased online.

The March 4 and 5 concert will showcase the LCCS’ range with From Broadway to the Beatles to the Beach, and the final performance of the season, May 6 and 7, will highlight great hymns, spirituals and poetry with The Sublime to the Spectacular.

All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. at Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church.

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