Voices to fill the air at annual choral tribute

By Grace Gaddy

Before the smoke of a bonfire billows through the night, riding in the air will be the sweet harmony of voices.

Singspiration, a homecoming tradition, will feature special tributes to four legends of Baylor’s choral heritage and legacy: Dr. Euell Porter, Dr. Hugh Sanders, Dr. Robert Young and Dr. Dick Baker.

Baker founded the Baylor Religious Hour Choir in 1948.

The event will start at 7 p.m. today at Seventh & James Baptist Church and will feature selections from the Baylor Religious Hour Choir and the Baylor Alumni Choir.

Special musical guests of the Baylor A Cappella Choir and the Baylor Concert Choir will also perform, bonding together in one unique ensemble.

Brent Edwards, director of The Baylor Alumni Network and coordinator of the event, said the program is one that will unite the Baylor family while honoring the heritage of a university rooted in faith.

“It celebrates the fact that Baylor University, the world’s leading Christian university, can come together as a family of alumni and parents and friends and rejoice in the common heritage that we have in Christian worship,” Edwards said.

That heritage reaches back more than six decades, he noted, to the late 1940s when a “huge revival movement that started on the Baylor campus” swept across the region.

Groups of students would gather in the drawing room of Memorial Hall on a Friday night “to just sing,” Edwards said.

“And that morphed into the Baylor Religious Hour, which became a midweek service,” he added.

Jan Tekell, a 1978 alumna, remembered that service from her own years on campus.

“We had Wednesday night services on campus in Waco Hall,” she said, during which, the Baylor Religious Hour Choir would lead, in worship.

Now, with children of her own donning green and gold, Tekell holds Singspiration as a time close to her heart.

Generations of the Baylor family as well as her own come together to celebrate their heritage rich in faith.

“It’s kind of like a family reunion for us,” she said. “Everyone comes from Midland or Sugarland or Pasadena and Beaumont, then we all meet together up there for Singspiration to start the weekend.”

In previous years, her now 91-year-old mother attended as well, giving Tekell a memory too precious to fade.

“There we are, with multigenerations singing ‘That Good Old Baylor Line’ at the end, and somebody took [our] picture,” she said. “And I just thought ‘Wow, that’s just such a treasured time, that we shared that.’”

This year, the program will again feature a reunion for musical traditions, as the title reflects: “From Generation to Generation… We Sing!”

Edwards said there will be “something for everyone.” Music will highlight each generation with a “whole set of traditional evangelistic-style hymn singing, and then a whole set of contemporary worship songs,” he said.

But he said his favorite part of the evening will arise from the hearts and faces present.

“I look forward to watching their response when they go, ‘I had no idea what this was,” Edwards said. “And every year I have people say that they have it in their head it’s some performance or old traditional worship time that wouldn’t interest them.”

They are in for a surprise and a treat, he said.

The program will incorporate multiple chances for the audience to join in and worship. Praise will be led by the choirs, Edwards, and John and Shari Griffin.

“I don’t want it just to be about entertainment. I want people to really enter into sharing the tradition and sharing in worship,” Edwards said. “And they have.”

Tekell described her memory of the event: “You just are all joining in one heart of lifting up Christ, just singing praise and worship to Him,” she said.

“That’s kind of giving you an idea of what it’s like.”

The event is free and open to the public.