The A Cappella Choir was 65 voices strong when students took the stage Sunday at the Great Bend High School Auditorium. Actually, the choir’s traditional Vespers Concert represents thousands of voices lifted in praise over the course of eight decades.
Vocal music instructor Susan Stambaugh said this was the 24th year for herself and accompanist Nancy Baxter to lead the school’s select choir of juniors and seniors as they perform songs selected for the Christmas season. The first time the GBHS A Cappella choir sang in public was at the Vespers Concert in 1936 and the community has made it a well-attended event ever since — even if they had to reschedule for an ice storm, Stambaugh said.
It means a lot to the student performers, said Stambaugh, who noted many former choir members as well as people from the community who love good music attend year after year. In addition to Baxter on the piano, the choir was accompanied by some talented instrumentalists from the area.
The program is steeped in tradition, and the students themselves choose to keep some of the music they recall from Vespers past. “When the newest of computer apps can be out of date in three weeks, it’s nice that they like the traditions,” Stambaugh said.
For 22 years the program was narrated by the Rev. Dr. Doyle Smith, who died in 2015. This year’s program was narrated by his son, Todd Smith of Lenexa.
“We are so appreciative of how the community supports the long-standing tradition of Vespers and we are proud to continue to do our part in keeping the tradition strong and meaningful,” Stambaugh said. “This is a tradition that has endured changes in everything from technology to political correctness. When I asked the students to share with me what it means to them to sing, they shared that it was a reflection of their faith, they loved the music, the bond strong through the ages, and it allowed them to share with the community during what is sometimes a hectic time of the year. I am grateful for another year of sharing with these students and the community what has remained so special through these years.”
Following the Vespers program, the Great Bend USD 428 Youth Choir performed.