Choir Director: Beverly Seng
Beverly has been singing in choirs since age 5. She studied cello and voice at Augustana College in Illinois. She has an MA and JD and taught environmental law before becoming a full-time homeschooling mom. She has been directing the Sojourners Choir for over 20 years. She also directs the 12-voice “Hallelujah Singers,” based at JABA’s (Jefferson Area Board for Aging) Mary Williams Center. She plays fiddle for contra dances, plays the folk harp, and is a certified therapeutic musician. She has written two books on teaching ukulele to children, and has given classroom sets of ukuleles to several local schools.
For many years, Timmie Jones was our regular pianist. In 2014 we began a rotating schedule in which a different pianist takes the helm one Sunday a month. Here are brief profiles of these individuals:
Steve Brinkley has had the privilege of serving God musically in two churches for a combined 33 years – first, as pianist at his home church in South Carolina and then as pianist and music director at the church in Virginia that Jennings Duncan pastored. He enjoys being part of the Sojourners family. Steve majored in economics and in music at the University of Virginia.
Dell Erwin notes that as a child, she took piano lessons for about six years, off and on when teachers could be found in rural Alabama where she grew up. Growing up, she played for her three-times-a-week church services and continued to do so until she left for college. Busy with three children and later a career, she stopped playing altogether. When she and her husband started attending Sojourners, she began substituting for Timmie. Finding that enjoyable, she bought a piano and started playing again and, surprisingly, her brain and fingers remembered how to read music. In addition to playing at Sojourners she plays regularly at local hospitals – both UVa and Martha Jefferson. She also plays for the Salvation Army choir.
Ben King started playing piano at age 5. He almost majored in Piano Performance at college when theatre took him away. Over the years he has played infrequently, playing for churches and accompanying voice students. He’s happy to be able to contribute to the service at Sojourners and says, “Thank you for the opportunity!”
Sojourners is blessed with a wonderful and dedicated choir of about eighteen members. In keeping with the inclusive, celebratory character of the church, we sing music from a wide variety of styles and historical periods, ranging from the sixteenth-century Palestrina to the contemporary Brazilian Ernani Aguiar, and including along the way African-American spirituals and gospel songs, African praise and freedom songs, traditional American shape-note hymns, Shaker hymns, and songs from contemporary feminist Jewish composers.
We sing unaccompanied, which is challenging but allows us to focus on listening to one another’s voices. Some of us read music well; some do not read music much at all. We carefully teach each part separately and offer one another plenty of encouragement. We have a lot of fun at rehearsals, drinking tea, eating choir snacks, and laughing together. Because the choir director, Beverly Seng, is an amateur just like the singers, everyone feels free to offer suggestions about the music, which gives the group a democratic flavor. Everyone is welcome to join at any time.
The choir is blessed with an enormously appreciative congregation. We feel cherished by the congregation, and their regard nourishes us every time we sing.
Throughout the year when the choir is not singing, or in the summer when it’s on hiatus, we encourage Sojourners of all ages and levels of ability to enrich our worship experience with their musical talent.
Here’s a sample of what’s been showcased over time:
- Children singing solos
- Families performing instrumental pieces
- Sacred dancers
- Classical music sung a cappella
- Composers performing their original works
- Rapper with violin and guitar accompaniment
The offerings are varied but the enthusiasm of both the artist and the congregation is a given!
If you’d like to hear what some of the original compositions Sojourners have shared sound like, please check out these links:
Several years ago a few Sojourners started gathering to play instruments and sing together for fun and inspiration. The Sojourners Band performed several times a year for Sunday services and was open to anyone who played any instrument or sang. Songs covered spiritual themes or topics like peace or social justice. Instruments played in the band included string bass, percussion, keyboard, acoustic guitar, dobro, banjo, mountain dulcimer, euphonium, violin, hammer dulcimer, flute and ukulele. Singers enjoyed creating harmonies in all ranges of voice. While there’s no longer a band per se, these congregants and a growing contingent of other musicians, volunteer to perform for worship when the opportunity arises.