Remembering spring...

Remembering spring...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Somewhere Along the Way

This past weekend, about 140 former members of the Westminster Youth Choir at Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, gathered for a reunion.  The director, William C. Everitt, who served as the volunteer director for 37 years, led us through a three hour rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning worship and a Sunday afternoon rehearsal and concert.  At 87 years old, he led (standing for most of the time!) with the same gifts of excellence, love and sparkling sense of humor.  I'd like to know what kind of vitamins this man takes!

The poem below is my humble attempt  to capture the impact that the youth choir had on so many young people for almost four decades.  I am grateful beyond belief for Mr. Everitt and for this formational experience.  I  simply cannot imagine who I would be without my four years as a young alto in this 100 voice choir.  

For Mr. Everitt, with love and a grateful heart...

Somewhere Along the Way

For almost forty years
you led young people
through the wilderness
called being a teenager.
You guided hundreds of us
with patience and love
through those turbulent times
of confusion, 
and exploration,
and raging hormones;
those times of being overwhelmed
by after school jobs,
too much homework,
and broken out faces.
Years when we fought with, 
and questioned,
our parents,
the Establishment
and even, or perhaps especially, God.

For almost four decades
you gave us
the chance to gather
in ways that mattered;
you challenged us to rise up
to meet high expectations
while much of the world
was "dumbing down" its offerings
in an effort to entertain us,
or equating teenagers with trouble.
Instead, you believed in us
and gave us a voice
to share in something bigger than ourselves.

And often we did not even know
that it was happening until later.
Sometimes, much later
for even now, the gifts continue to unfold.

Oh, Mr. Everitt,
you were creatively
and delightfully
in the best sense of the word,
as you introduced us to Handel
and Mozart
and Marshall,
oratorios and anthems
shaped by the Word
and carried on melodies
and harmonies
of the highest quality.

Of course, at first,
we joined the choir
because it would be such fun
to meet with our friends,
all one hundred of us,
(including those of the opposite sex)
even on school nights
for hours at a time,
twice a week,
without fail.

For many of us,
by the time it was our turn to sing,
the Westminster Youth Choir
had grown to legendary size
in numbers and reputation,
and we wouldn't have been
anywhere else on Sunday afternoons
and mid-week evenings.
Our parents,
stunned by our commitment
when we begged to cut short
family weekends at the lake
so that we wouldn't be late for choir practice,
were pleased with
our religious devotion
and newfound spirituality.

But the truth,
at least on the surface,
was that we wanted to be with the boys.
Before rehearsals,
and during breaks,
we girls primped in the bathroom
preparing to make our entrance
to the choir room,
wondering about which basses and tenors
we would see on the risers
in the back of the room.
How we tried to be casual
as we walked in the door
and crossed over to the cubbies
to retrieve our black folders
before settling into our own section,
soprano or alto.

I'm told that the boys
watched just as closely as we entered,
those same boys
who seemed so confident,
so sure of themselves,
sat hoping for a smile from us,
or at least a glance in their direction,
looking for some acknowledgement
of their worth or existence.

Oh, Mr. E,
you gave us a safe place
to explore so much more than music.

And somewhere along the way
after a season, or so,
of rehearsals and radio recordings,
of thanking "Little Ladies"
in four part harmony
for homecooked meals,
of traveling by bus on a Spring trip
or summer tour;

Somewhere along the way
while filing into the choir loft
to help lead worship,
or sitting with friends
in the chancel area
listening week after week
to preaching and prayers,
or standing in blue robes
with straightened white stoles,
all eyes fixed on you
waiting for the lift of your baton
so that we, 
in turn, 
could lift our voices;
somewhere along the way,
something shifted within us and
we were changed forever.

For you led us with your heart
as much as with your hands,
and somewhere along the way
we experienced a Light
both holy and radiant,
as the source of every life.

Somewhere along the way
we felt our eyes fill with tears
and our souls with the Spirit,
as we looked into your face
and sang in hushed tones
of our love for 
an eternal king
we could now claim as our own.


  1. What an amazing affirmation to this monumental man and a beautiful expression of gratitude.

  2. Ohh...JoAnn. You captured the memories perfectly. I want to hear more about the reunion when you have a chance. Gave me goosebumps reading this.