On June 9, MCCL’s auditioned choirs and an alumni choir performed a 25th Anniversary concert, “Sing! ‘til the Power of the Lord Come Down” in Lancaster Mennonite School’s High Fine Arts Center. During the concert, current board members shared MCCL’s history and expressed a new vision of expanding staff and increasing choir accessibility for more children and youth. In addition, Patricia Strong Myers, founding director, reflected on her initial call to start a children’s choir. The evening culminated in current singers and alumni singing a glorious rendition of “Sing! ‘til the Power of the Lord Come Down” by Keith Hampton, an MCCL favorite that has been sung every other year since 2001.

Keep singing praises to God!

“Remember what you sang this year… “He is marvelous,” “Sounds like Jesus knocking,” “Come unto Him,” “God will guide you all the time,” “To you alone may my spirit yield,” “O Love that will not let me go,” “God is light!”

Patricia Strong Myers, founding director, spoke to current and alumni singers on stage

Current Advisory Board chair, Lyn Carlson, and vice chair, Larry Guengerich shared the following.

Tonight’s concert is the culmination of a year of anniversary activities: a fall alumni and parent choir, a spring alumni choir, and now this splendid singing and concert.

As the singers rest their voices, we take a glimpse back at the choir’s history. . .and look forward.   Much of the historical record was compiled and written by former board member Susan Godshall for the celebration of the 15th anniversary  a decade ago. 

Most great ideas start with passion and vision.  For Mennonite Children’s Choir of Lancaster — the passion for choral music sung by children and youth –and the vision to make it happen — began with Patricia Strong Myers –- along with the support of an Advisory Board, chaired by Ruth Weaver.                                                                                   

In the fall of 1998, MCCL began its first season – with 31 singers in grades 4 – 8. Those early years saw many of MCCL’s basic tenets established – – high expectations for singers — concerts in local churches, — and snacks following rehearsal! The repertoire chosen demonstrated that music can take you around the world –- and take you back through time.  In concerts that first year, singers wore black skirts/slacks, and white shirts with a maroon cummerbund.

Within three years, the choir expanded to two choirs.  In 2001, Preparatory Choir – was added for children in elementary grades, and Concert Choir was for Junior High singers.  Also in 2001 MCCL began an affiliation with Lancaster Mennonite School as a program of the school. This beneficial relationship continues today.  LMS, we thank you for this partnership!

 In 2002 the choir expanded again.  Chamber Choir was established for singers who wanted to continue singing beyond Junior High years.  — MCCL now had three choirs – all under the direction of Pat Myers.  Since there was only one director, rehearsals were held on multiple nights at Blossom Hill Mennonite Church. 

In the spring of 2006 Pat Myers and her husband Lamar responded to God’s call to serve in the country of Bulgaria.  — Now it was time for two choir directors. Rosemary Blessing became Artistic Director for the Chamber Choir. In 2007, she was joined by Darlene Hein as Artistic Director of the two younger choirs. Having two Artistic Directors allowed all of the choirs to rehearse on the same night – an advantage welcomed by many families who had singers in multiple choirs!

2009 was a significant year for two reasons.  First, Preparatory Choir became Carol Choir.  This choir now joined Concert and Chamber Choirs in all concerts.  — Second, MCCL’s Advisory Board adopted a mission statement that gets to the core of MCCL – ——-“ training children and youth to glorify Jesus Christ through excellent choral singing. . . . “

 In 2010 the Christmas concerts introduced a new feature!  The Men’s Ensemble made their debut, under the direction of Jonathan Shoff!  

Another distinctive of MCCL are the annual Local Tour days. The choirs all sing in a variety of local settings – serving the community — increasing their confidence in singing — and also broadening awareness of MCCL. 

There are also Summer Tours each year for Concert and Chamber Choirs – often the year’s highlight. They have traveled to sing in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, and Canada and more. 

In 2012, Chamber Choir had their first international tour to Germany,  in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Missions.. Since then, EMM and MCCL have partnered together for other international choral tours – Balkans, Indonesia, and the Czech Republic. Also in 2012 MCCL reached out to young children and formed Prelude Music for children in Kindergarten and grade 1.  This non-auditioned group encourages children to freely enjoy music as they sing, play, move, listen and create. Several years later the Choristers classes were launched, providing a non-auditioned option for singers in grades 2-8 where choral skills and the joy of singing are taught in small group, interactive settings.

Artistic Director Darlene Hein retired from MCCL in 2016 after 9 years with MCCL. Sarah Wingard joined the MCCL team as Director of Carol and Concert Choirs that fall. The years 2020 and 2021 brought challenge and inspiration as MCCL creatively adjusted to the effects of COVID. Through the hard work, resilience, and ingenuity of MCCL staff, singers, and community, the program continued to thrive with smaller numbers with tremendous musical growth.

The MCCL staff and board created an updated Vision Statement in 2020 to express MCCL’s aspired impact on singers, the church, and our community. In the last few years, MCCL has added a summer “Music & More” day camp for elementary singers, as well as voice lessons for middle and high school singers, building the confidence and technique of individual singers and strengthening the choral team.

That’s our history, now what does the future hold for MCCL?

MCCL continues to grow. In the past four years, 50 new singers have joined the MCCL community.  The season just ending involved more than 150 singers.

To meet an emerging need for small-group musicianship and theory classes, we are expanding music staff. To meet logistical needs of a larger choir we are dividing the Managing Director/Choir Manager role into two positions and adding a Music Program Assistant. 

We are developing a strategic plan aimed at enhancing accessibility for more children and youth, upholding the choir’s mission and vision, and fostering the growth of our staff and board. As we grow, the Directors and the Advisory Board will keep on planning and nurturing the mission and vision of MCCL. One of the ways we are doing this is through a new initiative “Sustained Notes”, a giving circle to help MCCL be sustainable for 25 more years.  Please reference your program and the colorful trifold you received tonight. Stay tuned for more details.
We seek your continued prayers. Thanks be to God. 

On this milestone year, we wish to recognize former board and staff who have made invaluable contributions to MCCL. They gave time, wisdom, and prayer making MCCL what it is today.

If you are a former board or staff member please stand. If you are present in honor of a spouse who served on the board and has passed away – Ed Brainard and Jonathan Hofstetter,both who served as  Advisory Board chairs, David Sauder, Clarence Rutt, or Nelson Kling – Please stand and remain standing. Our sincere thanks to all of you for volunteering your time and expertise for this choir and helping it to flourish throughout  the past 25 years.

Parents, family, friends and MCCL supporters, Thanks to all of you for attending tonight’s concert!!  —You are a vital part of this choir.  Without your support and interest, it would not exist.  ––Parents, special thanks for your dedication in helping your children sing with MCCL!