adults know many milestones mark life as you get older.
But a milestone April
18 will hold a special place for some in Alexander Baptist Association as The
Singing Seniors sang its 100th concert at Antioch Baptist Church in
“It’s a family affair
of excitement,” said Kenneth Lambert, director of missions for Alexander
The associational group
started 11 years ago and averages one concert a month.
The 47-member choir is
led by Robert and Shelia Austin, members of Antioch where Shelia has been the
music director for more than 40 years.
Shelia covers most of
the directing duties and Robert sings in the choir and helps with public
“I do a little of the
talkin’ and I try to help a little with the plannin’,” he said.
At first the group sang
from a wide repertoire but over the years “the Lord moved us into a totally
religious venue,” Robert said.
The Austins both worked
in the education system and had retired. They anticipated their choir venture
would last six to nine months, but it grew rapidly and within two months they
had 40 members.
“They were so reliable
and dependable,” Robert said.
The choir meets on
second and fourth Tuesdays at a local senior center and uses the winter months
to learn a new musical. They perform at churches as well as nursing homes or
“About once a month is about all our
folks want to be away from church,” Robert said.
The Austins try to
limit their performances to Sunday nights within a short driving distance.
One of the hardest
things is losing members, Robert said. With poor health and age comes the
inevitability of physical death.
“At the same time you get to see a lot of
beautiful people,” Robert said. “I don’t want it to end. I still get excited.”
Robert credits Shelia
with helping other choirs around the county. Because of her direction the
church choirs get better members.
Plus, the music they purchase can be used by
other area choirs.
“I’m excited that we’ve
endured,” Shelia said. “I’m amazed at the progress. It’s been a blessing to me
personally to be involved.”
Shelia said choir
members range in age from early 50s to 80s. She’s thankful the associational
leaders have been supportive.
“It really became a
pretty good investment,” Robert said. “I think it’s been good for harmony
within the association.”
Vivia Cline, a choir
charter member, said the choir has been a good experience.
“Sheila works with us,”
“It doesn’t matter if
we make mistakes. She strives for better quality but most of all to praise the
Cline said Austin’s
patience has helped her learn a lot.
“We look forward to
coming to practice,” said Cline, who sings with the Austins in a trio and in
the choir at Antioch.
“I thoroughly enjoy
being with them,” Lambert said. “It’s a great fellowship. It’s not that we’re
professional (but) we enjoy what we’re doing.”
Rodney Boutwell, who
recently retired as minister of music at East Taylorsville Baptist Church,
worked with Austin on a Christmas musical about four years ago.
churches had done the same program so those churches decided to do a large
concert in January for the community.
Boutwell said the group
“reminds me what it’s like to be a choir member.”
“It’s good to keep the
voice in training,” Boutwell said. “Retirement is a joy but you don’t quit.”
Don Frye, who has been
a member nine years, said the group means a lot to him and his wife, Brenda.
They are members of Mount Herman Baptist Church in Taylorsville.
“Our group has become
so close knit,” Don Frye said. “It’s like we have a family reunion every second
and fourth Tuesday. It could be only for one reason that they spend so much
time with us. It’s a labor of love.”
“That’s what (Robert
and Shelia) exhibit to us,” Frye said. “They’ve truly been a blessing.”