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The long John Williams recieves line
Editor’s Note: Wittenberg has been twice blessed by the legacy of John Williams. John Thomas Williams founded the renowned Wittenberg Choir in 1930 and directed it until 1955.
When I started to read the fall issue, I stared in momentary disbelief at the comment on page 2 that John Williams, former director of the Wittenberg choir, had attended the 1998 Choir Reunion before realizing that there must have been TWO choir directors named John Williams.
I write to remember and honor John Thomas Williams who directed the Wittenberg Acappella Choir during the ’30s and ’40s.
JT and his gracious, multi-talented, gifted wife, Grace Snyder Williams, were driving forces behind the Wittenberg School of Music throughout my four years at Wittenberg.
They both were hard taskmasters as they tried to impart in their students the value of striving for perfection.
Of course, we all knew that perfection could never be achieved, but most of us were rewarded by the knowledge that at least we had made the effort and in doing so had improved the quality of our performance.
During those same years the School of Music was housed in two frame houses on the same block as Ferncliff Hall. The faculty was small but so mighty in what it could accomplish.
The Acappella Choir was open to any Wittenberg student willing to try out for a choir position, so there was a mixture of music majors and minors and those who had chosen paths other than music. JT was always focused on the ideal.
Deep respect for the goals of the college pervaded his directing. We rehearsed in the large lecture room in Koch Hall. The choir was seated five or six elevations above the director.
All eyes were expected to focus on Mr. Williams’ right and left hands. Attached to his music stand in huge letters were printed the words: THINK UP. And his slogan for the choir was: We sing — because we love to sing.
And we really did! During Holy Week, it was traditional that the choir would go on a concert tour, usually to other Ohio towns but often to western Pennsylvania and sometimes to Indiana.
We sang in Lutheran churches whose members volunteered to take two to four choir members for the night. The concert tour choir was smaller than for local concerts, so we anxiously awaited the announcement of names selected for a tour.
We never did get to go abroad (although we did dream about it)!
But we were just as excited as though Europe was our destination when we learned in my senior year that the concert tour would include New York City and that we would broadcast our program from one of the network stations and stay in a hotel!
For many of us it was our first trip to the East Coast. Churches in West Virginia and Maryland were included, as well as Dr. Ross Stover’s well-known church in Philadelphia.
The tour was highly successful, and we came back to Springfield with a feeling of satisfaction in what we had experienced. (That helped us to face having to make up two weeks of class work!)
A few years ago a college friend now living in Florida and I were reminiscing, and I learned that she still had a copy of the electrical transcription, which had been made during the New York City broadcast. (Over the years mine had disappeared.)
She had no record player in her home, so we took the record to my brother’s, and the two of us sat, excitedly awaiting the chord that would signal the opening number. We sat, and we sat, and we sat.
What we mostly heard was the “whoosh” of the record revolving. Occasionally a weak sound hinted that once upon a time there could have been some vigorous harmony.
For the most part, however, there was silence, broken only by the “whoosh” of the turntable. We looked sadly at one another — then at the record. We asked my brother to dispose of it.
I now sing in a volunteer chorus composed of residents who live in Panorama City, a continuing care community near Olympia, Wash. We also “sing because we love to sing.”
Not long after I had moved here, a new resident (who later became our chorus director) was introduced: Dr. Paul Bellam, who had retired from the music faculty at Lewis and Clark University in Portland, Ore.
It was exciting to learn that for a number of years he had been a member of the music faculty at Wittenberg! He brought to the Panorama Chorus many of the inspirational qualities that had characterized our beloved John Thomas Williams.
Beatrice Remer Moore, ’38
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
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