For the Men: Second Baptist Male Chorus shares fellowship through song

In June 1983 Viola Fisher took a long look at her church family and, in observing its abundance of male members, had a vision to form a male chorus at her beloved Second Baptist Church.

Now, almost 30 years later, the Second Baptist Male Chorus is 29 members strong, composed of men ranging from age 30 to 60, who uplift the church body during the church’s Sunday worship service.

“People in the congregation love them,” said Ms. Fisher. “People look forward to that third Sunday when they sing.”

But more than just vocal vibrations come from the jazzy, funk- fused Gospel group; they’re also a full-fledged band – with a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and several other percussionists – complimenting the group’s nearly two-dozen singers.

Also, two ladies play important roles in the Second Baptist Male Chorus: Band Director and keyboardist “Mother” Jean P. Lively and “Mother” Mary Abbyss.

“The vision has come through, to fruition,” said Ms. Fisher’s son, Earl, the assistant director of the group; he also sings in the chorus.     

“Part of that vision of hers was not just to formulate a male chorus; she wanted another outlet for the men to fellowship, to bond and to share – men to men.”

The church sanctuary isn’t the only place the group will likely be found; two weeks ago they “ministered” – as Earl says – to folks attending the Second Thursday event on the Chester Village Green.

The event was an opportunity for testimony, Earl said, for the men to share some of their personal stories through song, often introducing it with a personal story – a testimony.

After the music stopped for the evening, Earl later discovered that a man living in the nursing home just feet from the stage, who had recently lost his wife, found solace in Al Turner’s singing of “He raise me up.”

“It brought a lot of memories back, the wounds hadn’t really healed,” said Earl. “And he had tears in his eyes, but he said they were tears of joy. … So, if we can share something or make someone feel better, that’s what it’s all about.”

Earl, the assistant director over Custodial Services for Chesterfield County Public schools, believes music has a strong “drawing power,” often reassuring people when verbalized words do not.  He said it often heightens the dimension of the service when the church body sees the positive impact the ministry has had on its members.

“I’ve always said that a lot of times people may come to a service and they may not hear a word that pastor says, in the preaching realm,” he said. “But something may be said in song that causes them to causes them say, ‘Hmmm, I want to have that reassurance.’ ”

Keyboardist Tony Hobbs has been with the group for 10 years, since he started attending services at Second Baptist. He said that his membership with the chorus is like being in a big family.

“There’s something special about that male chorus. You don’t find that many men within a church in the first place, let alone singing together in a choir,” Hobbs said.

The Second Baptist Men’s Chorus ministers at Second Baptist Church, 5100 W. Hundred Rd., on the third Sunday of every month at 10:30 a.m. and on the fourth Sunday of every month at 8 a.m.

For more information, contact the church at 796-1912, or visit the church online at www.second-baptist.com.

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