By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
When it comes to church choirs, Lynn Conover has quite a resume. The Joplin woman has directed and founded choirs at three different churches.
In her 44 years as a choir director, all but 12 have been in Joplin at College Heights Christian Church, where she will officially step down after directing this year’s Christmas musical.
Conover received an early retirement present last month at College Heights when former and current members of the Celebration Singers gathered to honor her. The occasion also served as the 32nd annual reunion of the choir.
Some former choir members traveled great distances to attend the reunion. The reason for that may have been because many feel a closeness to the group, which is much like a family, said Conover, who sang in choirs as a youngster.
“We look after each other, take care of each other, such as in the hospital, etc., and are just a close-knit group,” she said.
Conover started and directed a choir at her church in Dallas for nine years, then did the same thing for three more years at a church in St. Louis before relocating at College Heights. She started the Celebration Singers in 1980, with the orchestra, Instruments of Praise, forming later.
Before taking her first choir directing job in Dallas, Conover attended Lincoln (Ill.) Christian College. After moving to Joplin, she finished her degree in Biblical Literature from Ozark Christian College, where she took some choral conducting classes.
She estimated that the first choir had around 30 members and today has more than doubled.
The Celebration Singers are called upon each year for a Christmas musical as well as something in the spring, such as an Easter performance.
The reason the group doesn’t sing every week is because College Heights has no choir loft, so to sing each Sunday would present a pretty big chore of setting up risers, microphones and the whole nine yards, as Conover describes it.
Conover said her biggest highlight as the College Heights director came last year when their group sang with the nationally-known Annie Moses Band out of Nashville.
Of course, there has been a great deal of personal satisfaction, as well.
“A big highlight for me is when we take a piece of music that we have never seen before, pound out the parts, learn the music, memorize it and then sing it at our Christmas or spring concert,” she said. “It is just overwhelming to hear how it all comes together. The final product is such a blessing to me.”
Generational Gap closed
Choir members range in age from teens to octogenarians. Ken Jenkins, at 82, is the oldest. There are five singers who have been with the choir since it began.
Following the Christmas musical, Tammy Nelson, who has been with the choir several years, will take over as director. Nelson teaches at OCC, including vocal music courses.
Even though Conover will relinquish her role as choir director, she will remain on staff as ministry associate for the worship department.
Tom Black is one choir member among many who had praises for the work Conover has done.
“She is such an example to the community and involved in the spiritual welfare of Joplin,” he said.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.