Centenary Choir: 1999 South African Tour. Left photo: The Centenary Choir performs at Trinity Methodist Church, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The church was so packed for the performance that the minister had to divide the congregation into fourths for departures at four exits. Right photo: The group went out on a ledge at the Cape of Good Hope.
Reprinted from Centenary Today, Vol. 13, No. 1, Summer 1999
By Lynn Stewart
Centenary News Service
Choir Director Will Andress expected a Third World experience when the Centenary Choir traveled this past May on its overseas tour to South Africa.
"It was a much grander experience than I had expected," he said. "It was nicer, more modern and we were treated so well."
So positive was the experience that Dr. Andress rates the tour as one of the best ever for the globe-trotting singers who travel abroad every other year. Halls were packed beyond capacity at stops all along the way during the May 11-23 tour. The Choir started out with three days in Cape Town followed by stops in George, Port Elizabeth, Durbin, Johannesburg and Pilanesburg.
Andress was accompanied by 68 people, including 43 students and 25 adults. The students presented a traditional program of American music. Sponsored by several Methodist churches in South Africa, the concerts were held in churches, concert halls and other auditoriums.
One concert, a benefit for the John Wesley School, was supported by the chief executive officer of Anglo American, parent corporation of the Debeers organization. Churches hosting performances are Rosebank Methodist Church in Cape Town, George Methodist Church in George, St. John's Methodist Church in Port Elizabeth, Pinetown Methodist Church in Durban and Trinity Methodist Church in Johannesburg.
The tour also included some time for sightseeing and activities such as evening-time and sunrise photography game drives and golf at Gary Player's home course. Many members of the Choir returned to Shreveport on the afternoon of Sunday, May 23, while some of the participants took an extended sightseeing tour to Greece, Germany, Austria and Italy.
The Centenary Choir sings annually throughout the United States. Every other year, it also makes international tours. In the past 58 years, the Choir has visited more than 30 countries on four continents, singing for front-line troops in Korea, many European and Asian heads of state, NATO and American armed forces, 10 conventions of Lions International, three times for the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Council of Bishops, and two lengthy engagements at New York's Radio City Music Hall. For the past two years, the Choir has performed during special Christmas receptions at The White House.
Still, Andress ranks the latest trip among the Choir's best trips. "I personally made friends who I plan to maintain, to have in my home and visit again," Andress said, noting that the Choir has been invited back for a longer stay.
South Africa will definitely be a stop on the Choir's around-the-world tour that will take place in 2003. That will follow the 2001 trip to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This extensive travel has earned the choir the media title of "America's Singing Ambassadors."
Choir members making the trip were:
Accompanists: Emily Pinnis and Jerry Don Killian.
Sopranos: Greta Adams, Rebecca Geihsler, Melanie Genius, Stacey Glenn, Jamie Hearne, Kriss Kirkindoll, Sarah King, Nikki Kitchens, Grace Long, Mariah Mayo, Sarah Starks, Sarah Sutton, Katie White, and Sarah Williams.
Tenors: Lewis Bell, Jay Carroll, Nate Edwards, Sean Gilder, Warren Harper, Lawrence LeDuff and Larry Looke.
Basses: Jason Burnham, Bob Calhoun, Octavio Cardenas, James Eakin, George Fine, Donny Kirdindoll, Joey Legg, Lee Parker, Robert Swafford, Dawson Taylor and Weston Webb.
Altos: Denise Beville, Sarah Clark, Allison Courville, Sarah Lagersen, Keeley Larned, Amanda Rundell, Julie Shepherd, Stephanie Stodghill, Katy Valentine and Amy Woodley.
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