Banjo-pickin' may not be a familiar sound in church, but audiences will hear one — and a fiddle and mandolin — during a "High Lonesome Mass" to be performed in Longview.
Chor Anno, a 25-voice choir of experienced singers directed by retired local teacher Howard Meharg, will sing the work during the St. Stephen's Celebration Concert at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The composer of "Come Away to the Skies: a High Lonesome Mass," Dr. Tim Sharp, took traditional hymns such as "Do Lord Remember Me" and put them in the framework of the traditional Latin mass. The 20-minute-long work incorporates banjo, mandolin, guitar, violin and double-bass. Sharp himself will play banjo and Matt Mandrones, former concertmaster of the Southwest Washington Symphony, will play fiddle.
Sharp, an expert in early American music, is director of the famed Tulsa Oratorio Choir and executive director of the American Choral Directors Association.
Meharg, a retired Kelso and Longview school choir director, met Sharp two years ago. "I discovered he liked to fish," Meharg said, so he set up an angling expedition with his son, Steve.
Sharp told Howard Meharg about his bluegrass mass and was hooked on having Meharg's choir perform its West Coast premiere.
Meharg formed Chor Anno two years ago with the idea of giving vocal professionals who teach in schools and churches a chance to perform. The group's name means "annual choir" in Latin, and it does just one concert a year.
Local members include Alison Askeland, Jim Crislip, Gary Gross, Joe Strandjord, Brent LiaBraaten, Brian Mitchell, David Walworth and Sharon Bolster. Former Longview choir teacher Paul Dennis and his son, Rob, are also in the group.
In addition to Sharp's Mass, the choir will sing works by American composers Alice Parker and Richard Nance, amongst others.
The church is at 22nd and Louisiana in Longview. An offering for CAP will be taken.