Tidings of Comfort and JOY!

“God rest ye merry, gentlemen let nothing you dismay…” opening words from the familiar Christmas carol. As we move forward on the musical journey in the age of COVID, many or most of us might feel a bit dismayed. Music, and especially singing, is my respite, a distraction from the noise of the world, comfort in times of distress and anxiousness. In the past this brief reprieve found its realization in rehearsals, both at HCS and at church. Joining with others, whom I hold so dear, to raise a resounding forte or whisper a heightened pianissimo. For just a few moments to lay aside the cares of life to concentrate and be immersed in the melodies, harmonies, and lyrics. And afterward finding myself reinvigorated and reenergized, ready again to engage in the other rhythms of life. I miss it, you maybe do too. I feel the sense of something missing, knowing this December I will not process four times down the center aisle in the majestic sanctuary of Corinth Reformed Church to the strains of the “Personet,” nor hear the magnificent brass and organ as we recess to “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

But there are “silver linings,” things we can celebrate, even in the missing and while remembering many have experienced tragedy. The carol refrain then repeats, “O tidings of comfort and joy.” Just what I am needing, probably you as well. Exciting things are happening in the Hickory Choral Society. We are navigating the challenges and the technical learning curves necessary to have rehearsals by Zoom and broadcast a virtual fall concert on our new YouTube channel. We are enthusiastically preparing for our virtual Christmas concert scheduled for December 13th, and brainstorming ways to connect with our contributors and audience in new ways.

I am continually amazed at and thankful for the creative gifts and energies of Ryan, Celia, and Tammy, our Artistic Director/Conductor and Associate Conductors. I marvel at the commitment and resilience of our singers, who not only pursue new music but also new ways to learn, record, and perform music in a time with such limitations. If I could, I would invite you to sit in on the fifteen minutes prior to the Monday night rehearsals and listen to the chatter and the banter. We really like each other. I am encouraged each week and assured that there will come a day when we are “liking” each other in person in J. Don Coleman Hall at the Salt Block.

Well, this is just a few good tidings. We also find great JOY in YOU our supporters. We are accomplishing these good things with and because of you. Your words of encouragement and response to the fall concert and your generous financial support encourages, igniting a passion to continue to pursue our choral mission.
Please join us on December 13th for some familiar carols and seasonal selections. I’m looking forward to “seeing” you there. – Kyle Canerday, HCS President

HCS Christmas in the Time of COVID

It’s hard to deny that the ongoing pandemic has impacted how many of us think about time. Some of us have become increasingly nostalgic about the past, perhaps looking back fondly on now discouraged activities such as large family gatherings, sporting events, and live concerts. We miss those times together! Meanwhile, others have focused on the present, taking creative measures to stay connected and forge new relationships.
HCS is grateful to have been able to sing with nearly 200 singers from the region during our fall concert — a feat not practical in typical times. Let’s seize the day! Finally, despite a divisive election season, social unrest, and a wearying pandemic, many of us remain hopeful about the future. We can get through this!

The themes of remembering the past, appreciating the present, and looking to a hopeful future have guided this year’s HCS virtual Christmas concert programming. To that end, the concert will include favorite recordings from the past, including HCS Christmas traditions such as Lara Hoggard’s “Personent Hodie” and John Rutter’s arrangement of “O Come, all Ye Faithful.” We’ll honor the present with a selection of familiar carols recorded while physically distant this fall, including “Deck the Hall,” “Here we Come A-Caroling,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “The Boar’s Head Carol,” “Carol of the Bells,” as well as Alfred Burt’s “Caroling, Caroling” and “We’ll Dress the House.” We’ll bring things full circle with Rosephanye Powell’s brand new composition “Christus natus est,” a setting of Countee Cullen’s poem written in 1943 during World War II. The text acknowledges the world’s tumult and pain, but by using hopeful imagery from a 2000+ year-old story, also proclaims “The manger still / Outshines the throne.”

Whether you’re focused on the past, present, future, or a combination of all three, we invite you to view our Christmas concert live on December 13 and again in the days that follow as you and yours celebrate the holiday season during this time. – Ryan Luhrs, Artistic Director/Conductor

Singers Experience Facetime with Composers

During two of our Zoom rehearsals singers and conductors were privileged to have a question and answer time with two exceptional conductors. Rosephanye Powell of Auburn University, is the composer of “Christus natus est.” This selection will be featured on our virtual Christmas concert. And Karen Morrolli of Albuquerque, New Mexico is composer of “Undivided,” which had its world premier by the HCS at our virtual Fall Concert. Both women brought amazing insight and generated great enthusiasm for these selections.

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How Can We Keep From Singing?

The first-ever virtual concert by the Hickory Choral Society was performed on Sunday, October 25th at 3:00 PM. It was live on the HCS YouTube channel and was very well received from an audience both local and far away. We are very grateful for the support and generosity of our concert sponsors, The Corning Foundation and Focus Newspaper. We are also very thankful for our patrons who loyally support and attend our concerts year after year. 2020 is very different for all of us with the pandemic, but it is reassuring to know that we have found a safe way to sing until we are able to perform for our audiences in person again.

We welcome Dr. Ryan Luhrs, our talented new HCS Artistic Director/Conductor to the podium. He is a very talented and creative leader. In addition to HCS singers, singers from high schools in Catawba County as well as from Lenoir-Rhyne University and Catawba Valley Community College joined in singing several selections of love, hope, peace, and unity. There were 270 total singers for two pieces within the concert. We were pleased to discover that the selection Undivided received more than 36,000 hits on Facebook, and 3,600 direct hits on YouTube and How Can I Keep From Singing tallied 3,500 hits. 2,200 people enjoyed the entire concert. Thank you to all who continue to support and follow us through these trying times. Stay tuned for our Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 13th at 3:00 PM on HCS YouTube. – Celia Sexton, Associate Conductor

Meet Brian Stone – Board Member at Large

There is a joy that comes from singing that has been seldom exceeded in my life. It is something that I have been doing since I was six. I sang “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover” on stage and in a radio broadcast at our little town hall theater in Gorham, New Hampshire. That beginning made singing a happy part of my life.

Since then I have sung in choral groups of all sorts: high school chorus, the New Hampshire All-State, several small community choruses (16 to 40 voices), large choruses with full orchestra (110 to 230), church choirs, ten years of Barbershop (chorus and competition quartet), and musical theater.

My greatest singing experience is singing with the Hickory Choral Society. Before moving to North Carolina in 2007, I saw the choral opening of the “Personent” during my website research. That experience, along with the other cultural activities present in Catawba County, convinced me and my musician wife, Diana, that Hickory was the place for us. The musical and theater culture in this area was a perfect fit.

I passed the audition the following year and that has made a significant difference in my life. My musical education under the tutelage of J. Don Coleman, our Founding Conductor, was beyond my wildest dreams. The Hickory Choral Society is an amazing group of people striving to produce the best possible choral music for audiences and the singers. This year I was invited to join the board as a Member at Large. I am honored to have been asked and I am looking forward to making whatever contributions I can to the success of this most extraordinary musical organization. I am truly thankful that we are led by such talented people. The musical team of Maestro Luhr, Associate Conductors, Celia Sexton and Tammy Shook, and accompanist Mary Texer, will carry our mission forward into the far future. Thanks to all for making this an experience of a lifetime.

Congratulations on a Outstanding Fall Concert

“Truly creative planning. Great presentation. What a wonderful way to expand the audience beyond the walls of a performance hall. Thanks to everyone who made this a reality. As always, it is the commitment of the singers of the Hickory Choral Society and their conductor to make the future so bright for years to come. Music is love to and from the heart.” – J. Don Coleman, HCS Founding Conductor

Getting to Know Susan Goldstein – HCS Vice President

I’m thrilled to be a member of the Hickory Choral Society and so happy to serve as Vice President this year. I grew up in Hickory and began singing at a very early age at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church where my mom served as organist for fi-y years. After graduating from Hickory High, I attended Greensboro College where I graduated with a Bachelor of Music Degree with a major in Voice. Then on to Northwestern University to get a Master of Music in Voice. I fell in love with Chicago and thought I’d stay there forever.

Somewhere along the way, I became a commercial lending officer at Continental Bank. One of my clients was the very wonderful Harold Goldstein and, after a very long courtship, we were married. Meanwhile, I continued to do singing gigs at churches and synagogues. Something very special happened to me while singing High Holy Days services at Anshe Emet Synagogue. The Jewish liturgical music resonated with me in a very special way. I began a journey to join the Jewish people, and it continues to be a joyful journey.

A few years after we were married, my husband decided I should go to law school – about the same time his oldest grandson was doing the same. So I earned a Juris Doctorate degree at John Marshall Law School. During the law school years, Harold’s health continued to decline. After graduation, we decided that I should not to go work immediately in order to have more time together. After his death, I went back to Bank of America (formerly Continental Bank) as Counsel to the Private Bank. It was great! But the bank eventually moved its legal department to St. Louis, and I wasn’t ready to move. Fortunately, opportunity knocked.

I was very active in the Chicago Jewish community and, when the position of Executive Director at a large Reform synagogue was offered to me, I grabbed it. A few years later, I was off to serve communities in Atlanta, then Dallas, then St. Petersburg. My parents urged me to come back to North Carolina, and I was ready to do that after my contract in St. Pete ended. But there was one more opportunity. I had an amazing year directing a planned giving program for the Jewish communities in Tampa, Orlando, and Pinellas County. What could be more wonderful than helping very generous people make sure their support for their favorite causes lives on?!
I volunteer in the Guardian ad Litem program, serving as a child’s advocate. My other big project is serving as Cantor and President of Temple Beth Shalom/The Hickory Jewish Center. In addition to caring for my parents (ages 100 and 92, respectively), I take lots of online classes – exercise and Jewish studies. The only thing I miss is travel during the pandemic. It’s so good to be with family here, but I miss being with my husband’s kids and our grandkids in Chicago and Los Angeles and especially our seven great-grands in Los Angeles.

Since returning to Hickory, the Hickory Choral Society has become an important part of my life. I am enjoying making virtual music until we can be together in person again!


Please remember the Hickory Choral Society with a gift in your will, trust, retirement account, or life insurance policy. Contact the HCS office for more information.

Special gifts to the J. Don Coleman Education Fund Given in MEMORY of

  • Mary Anne Milholland by Don and Toni Coleman
  • Joel Reece by Don and Toni Coleman
  • Wanda Simmons by Don and Toni Coleman
  • F. P. Wright by Don and Toni Coleman
  • Beverly White by Don and Toni Coleman
  • Howard Prui; by Don and Toni Coleman
  • Cyndee Propst Brown given by Susan Goldstein
  • Reindeer Bowman given by DeLane Bowman

Given in HONOR of

  • The 2019-20 Board of Directors, Don Coleman, Tammy Shook, Celia Sexton, and Bonita Ferretti for their outstanding leadership and support this past year by Karen Whitworth

Other gifts given by

  • Brian Hill
  • Michael Roper

Special gifts to the Conductor’s Endowment Fund Given by

  • Bob & Sara Johnson
  • Nancy Wilfong
  • Paul & Laila Caporossi
  • Karen Whitworth

Donations to the new rehearsal hall chairs

  • In memory of Dan Davila given by Kathy and Richard Greathouse
  • In memory of Leon Lewis given by Elinor Lewis

HCS Board of Directors

Kyle Canerday President
Susan Goldstein Vice President
Karen Whitworth Immediate Past President
Charles Bolick Treasurer
DeLane Bowman Secretary
Denise Bilhorn Member-at-large
Kellie Light Member-at-large
Brian Stone Member-at-large
Bucky Robbins Property
Lu Litton Griffin Publicity

HCS Staff

Ryan Luhrs Artistic Director/Conductor
Celia Sexton Associate Conductor
Tammy Shook Associate Conductor
Bonita Ferretti Business Manager