A Cappella Choir memories – 1967-1970

by Steve Grubbs, Class of 1970

Looking back on my 3 years in Acapella choir 51 years later, I have more impressions than specific, detailed memories.  I do remember the first day I walked into the choir room in my sophomore year.  It was 1967 and I didn’t even have my driver’s license yet.  I felt a little intimidated as I looked around at all the (tall…old) people in the room and all the pictures on the walls.  At the time, there were photographs all around the room of every choir president since Mr. Z began directing the choir 23 years prior.  It seemed a very prestigious role and position of honor to be choir president.  At that point I never dreamed I would fill that role in my senior year.

Fast forward to 1969, the beginning of Mr. Z’s 25th year as choir director.  This was the Silver Anniversary choir which was a very special year for Mr. Z.   I was fortunate enough to be elected to be choir president for this special year.  I remember Mr. Z meeting privately with me to tell me about how significant the year was to him.  He told me about some of the special things he had planned and how excited he was for the year to unfold.  Mr. Z also told me about his feelings in the aftermath of Ann Bakich’s tragic accidental death, and his desire to dedicate special concerts to Ann’s memory.  I felt like I had been enlisted for a sacred responsibility.

I have fond memories of the choir’s performance of the Messiah at St Paul’s Cathedral downtown.  It was a magical experience singing the powerful “Messiah” with the acoustics at the church, the full house, and sharing the experience with great friends in the choir.  It was a special honor to lead the choir in the processional, holding the silver anniversary candle inscribed to the memory of Ann Marie Bakich.    

There were so many events and gatherings where the choir performed that provided opportunities for service, fun, and just being together with people you love while doing what you love to do.   I especially enjoyed singing the Christmas music at the malls and facilities (which was right up there with playing spin the bottle in the back office following an “Important” meeting).  

Another memory I have is the ongoing debate I had with Jackie (Smith) Knowlton, my girlfriend for most of my high school years.  The choir leadership team was divided into “major” officers and “minor” officers.  She was the student director, a “minor” officer, and I was president, a “major” officer.  That’s just the way the system was set up, I didn’t make the rules.  Alright, so 51 years have passed and I’m ready to concede – she was the major officer and I was the minor officer.  There, I said it… I’m ready to move on.  

Furthermore, it was pretty incredible the way everybody in leadership and the choir members at large pulled together to make Z’s 25th silver anniversary choir an unforgettable experience.  Making our album and singing Silent Night and Pax Dei, the way Z directed and with the emotion he evoked, still lingers when I think of those times.

When I left Kearny, music continued to be a big part of my life.  Through 27 years of pastoral ministry and 14 years as a Hospice Chaplain, I continued to sing, play, and write.  Last year after I retired, my wife Wendy and I moved to Nashville so that I could pursue my hobby of songwriting in music city.  Taking some time to reflect back on the meaningful musical experiences and relationships I had in high school has been fun for me.  I was blessed to be able to spend 3 years in such an incredible choir, with such a distinctive and delightful director, and all the many others who shared the joy of the music.  Sing on!      

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