Bundled in their winter coats and shivering from the December cold, members of Hagerstown Choral Arts streamed into Trinity Lutheran Church on a recent evening for rehearsal.
Their weekend performance of Handel’s “Messiah” was just days away and on this night it was about fine tuning.
Clutching their scores, the singers did what comes naturally. First one voice, and then another, and soon the room was swelling with song so rich and strong it almost spilled outdoors.
While the local choral group’s performance will not approach the extremes that some productions have reached over the centuries, member Jack Myers is confident their rendition will leave a lasting impression on audiences.
Under the musical and artistic direction of Gregory Paul Shook, Hagerstown Choral Arts opened their holiday concert season Saturday night. “Messiah” will be presented again at 4 p.m. today at the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.
Of all the music available during the Christmas season, this is the greatest, he said.
“It’s simply beautiful. ‘Messiah’ tells the Christmas story in such an elegant way. I love it,” Myers said.
Myers has been a member of Hagerstown Choral Arts for about 17 years — a fact that doesn’t separate him from many of his fellow singers who have been with the community-based group since its inception in 1993.
But Myers has a particular note of distinction.
He’s the oldest member.
“I’ve never been told I’m the oldest, but at the age of 87, it’s a pretty sure bet,” he said.
Most people who know Myers say he is a youthful 87, full of vigor and ready to entertain at the drop of a hat.
“It’s something that just comes naturally,” he said. “I love music and can’t imagine a world without it.”
Born in Washington County in 1923, Myers said he came from a musical family and remembers singing around the piano with his parents and brothers.
He also sang in the church choir.
“I’ve been singing all my life,” Myers shared. “At one time, my brothers and I had a quartet known as ‘The Myers Brothers.’”
Even after the group stopped performing, Myers said he continued to sing.
“I guess it’s in my blood,” he said. “I love making people smile.”
Myers said he served in World War II in Europe and saw action at the Battle of the Bulge “plus a lot of other battles.”
He married and had three sons and remembers his first job at Maidstone in downtown Hagerstown, where he did refinishing and reupholstering work and eventually sales. He continued in the furniture business for more than 50 years, he said, and retired when he was 79.
A bit of a Renaissance man, Myers is an artist, dancer and storyteller and loves to play tennis and golf.
But music keeps him busy, he said.
He performs at banquets, social functions and community events, he said, including recently at Williamsport’s Charlie Brown Christmas.
Last year, he became famous locally for taking home the crown in Washington County’s Senior Idol competition.
“I went on to the state contest but didn’t win,” he said. “But not everyone can win. I got a trophy, so that’s pretty special.”
Myers said he also spends a lot of time singing at area nursing homes.
“My wife has Alzheimer’s and is now in a nursing home,” he said. “That’s kind of how I got started. Now, it keeps me really busy. The residents love hearing the old songs. And they love when I tell stories about the old days. It’s really quite rewarding.”
Not one to sit still, Myers said he plays tennis with his son and several senior friends and also can be found on the golf course when the weather permits.
“I’ve always liked to be involved,” he said. “I think it helps keep me young.”
Though he’s the oldest member of Hagerstown Choral Arts, Myers said he fits right in.
“We all have a love of music. We do have that in common,” he said. “I’ve also made a lot of friendships. Everybody treats me with respect.”
As a man of faith, Myers said he is thrilled to be performing Handel’s “Messiah.”
“Jesus means a lot to me,” he said. “And some of the greatest music composed honors Him, including ‘Messiah.’”
Myers said the group will be performing Dec. 18 and Dec. 19 with The Maryland Symphony Orchestra during a holiday concert at the Maryland Theatre. A spring concert of show tunes also is planned.
“We sing from the heart,” Myers said of the choral group. “There’s nothing like it. It’s a very special blend of people performing very special music for the community. It’s quite an experience. And I plan on being a part of it for as long as I can.”