National Christian Choir visits city

February 10, 1997


Staff Writer

The National Christian Choir lit up the Bethel Assembly of God in Hagerstown Sunday evening with bright blue robes and soaring voices.

It was the first trip to Washington County for the choir, which has performed in the greater Washington, D.C., area and other locations for the last 13 years.

The choir has about 200 members from more than 100 congregations and denominations all across the Christian spectrum.

One of them, Penny Frye-Holloway, heard an advertisement on a Christian radio station and decided to audition - even though she had no musical experience.


She said she made the decision to try out for the Rockville, Md.-based group two years ago as she drove from her home in Waldorf, Md., to visit her family in Maugansville.

"Rockville was right in the middle, so I made the appointment," she said. "I sang two songs, and I was in."

Membership is by audition only and the group holds tryouts three times a year, choir leaders said. The group practices every week and performs about eight times a year.

Choir Director C. Harry Causey said he came up with the idea in 1971 when he was working for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Presbyterian Denomination. Many of the performers sang in both groups, but the attitude was strikingly different, he said.

Causey said he wanted to set up a national Christian choir that could gain the prominence of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. "I thought it was high time the Christians had a choir that could represent America," he said.

Causey searched more than a decade for a way to fund the venture and finally secured backing from a Virginia businessman. The group first performed in January 1984 in Washington's Constitution Hall. Dick Halverson, a one-time chaplain of the U.S. Senate, narrated the event, Causey said.

"We almost filled the place by word-of-mouth advertising," he said.

Since then, Causey said the group has performed in Orlando, Israel, Eastern Europe and, most recently, on Robert Schuller's "Hour of Power" television show in the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles.

Because choir members pay for all travel expenses out of their own pockets, the choir rarely tours outside of the Washington area. It has recorded eight albums and is working on a ninth.

"We tour through our recordings," said Lauramae Ball, the group's administrative director.

Lloyd E. Lippert, the choir's president-elect, said members work extremely hard but never lose sight of their primary mission.

"In my six years, there's been only one piece of music we haven't done from memory," he said. "We all worship one God. We feel people are reached through music."

Causey said he often prefers to refer to the performances as presentations or worship experiences rather than concerts. Nearly all of the members are active in their church choirs and all must sign a statement of faith, he said.

Alice Ann Deitz, 58, who lives in Williamsport, joined the choir in 1989 with her two daughters. Deitz, who teaches elementary school in West Virginia, said she has been singing since she was 12 and now sings with the Broadfording Bible Brethren Church.

"I felt that thrill in my heart that I was being called to this ministry," she said. "It just draws you toward Christ."

The choir's next performances are March 1 and 2 in Wayne, Pa. Causey said the group is booked through the middle of 1998 but has no immediate plans to return to the Tri-State area.

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