South Charlotte

Church to host Festival of Church music

Eric Nelson is a choral conductor at Emory University in Atlanta.
Eric Nelson is a choral conductor at Emory University in Atlanta. THE AMERICAN PRIZE

More than 250 musicians from Charlotte area churches will sing together Feb. 22 in one of the largest church music gatherings of its kind the Southeast.

The second biannual Festival of Church Music will be 7 p.m. at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Eric Nelson, a leading choral conductor who teaches conducting at Emory University, will lead the concert.

“To sing on a scale of this magnitude, rarely do we get 200-plus singers together for many events,” said Jonathan Crutchfield, minister of music at Myers Park Baptist Church.

“This reaches across the boundaries of church life. Folks from various faith traditions are able to come together and sing the same pieces of music together.”

The festival has grown significantly since its inaugural concert two years ago. In 2013, about 185 singers participated. This year’s concert will feature 267 singers from 11 churches in Charlotte and one in Davidson. Singers represent many Christian denominations, including Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist and Episcopal.

The idea for the festival was born when several music ministers in Charlotte decided it would be a good idea, Crutchfield said. In 2013, Paul Leddington Wright, a British composer and conductor, led the singers in a weekend of music that culminated in a concert.

“We really enjoyed the experience,” Crutchfield said.

Choirs have been working on the seven selections for the concert individually.

The selections are based on the Christian liturgical calendar, which begins in January with Epiphany. The songs were chosen so church choirs can also sing them in their home churches.

“They are designed for all of us to continue to sing,” Crutchfield said.

Nelson, who is leading the joint choir rehearsals and the concert, also leads the Atlanta Masterworks Chorale and the choir of Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta. He has guest conducted in the United States and Europe, and his compositions are sung throughout the world.

The liturgy at the Feb. 22 concert will be led by Paul Westermeyer, professor of church music at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. He has served as the national chaplain of the American Guild of Organists and has been president of the Hymn Society in the U.S. and Canada.

Singers join the choir often because of the opportunity to meet other people in the area who enjoy singing church music, Crutchfield said.

“It brings them together to join their voices with a very fine clinician,” Crutchfield said. “Dr. Nelson is known worldwide for his work with choruses. It will be a very fine weekend.”

Tickets for the concert are $10 for adults and $5 for students 12 years and younger. Children are free.

Tickets are available at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1000 E. Morehead St., before the concert or at

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at