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Highlights From Our Heritage–Random Reminiscences from the KBC/SCC Chorus

by Dale Jorgenson

Part One: The KBC Chorus

            After completing the Master’s degree in Nashville in December, 1949, my family and I pursued an invitation to join the staff of the new Christian college in Louisville.  Just before Christmas, Brother John Gill brought his farm truck to the veterans’ apartments at Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University) and we loaded our sparse belongings, along with Dale Jr., one and a half years of age, and drove to the beautiful Gill farm at Allensville, Kentucky for the night.  Dale Jr. slept in a dresser drawer, a clever arrangement worked out by Sister Gill and Mary Lee, and the next day we headed for 2630 Montgomery Street in Louisville.  Our compensation as new faculty was to be $25 per month and free rent for one room (with no running water for the kitchenette)  in the old three-story dormitory.  We  shared the second-floor bathroom with Mona Belle and Lois Campbell and Lois McReynolds, all teachers at Portland Christian School who occupied the third floor.   Mona Belle also taught English part-time at Kentucky Bible College.  On the first floor resided the Houtz family (later the Winston Allens) and on the second floor next-door to us lived a ninety-year-old lady from the Portland Church of Christ.  We had no idea how we could survive on the salary, and the living arrangement was a considerable come-down from even the GI apartment we had occupied in Nashville, but we were sure this was the Lord’s business and believed He would somehow make it viable.

            This expectation was borne out shortly when Brother Ernest Mengelberg, a pillar in the Portland congregation and a senior professional plumber, volunteered to pipe water into our kitchen, providing the plumbing parts at his own expense.  Mary Lee was elated not to have to carry water from the hall bathroom for every need in the kitchen.  My uncle, E. L. Jorgenson, provided a new hide-a-bed for our room, and with Dale’s baby bed we all had a place to sleep.

            KBC enrolled ten students that school year, during which we arrived between semesters.  Among them were Harold Preston, who with his wife became a long-term missionary in the Far East, and Betty Knecht, later Mrs. Dennis Allen and also a missionary.  Betty was already a registered nurse and probably enrolled in the College primarily because she knew we needed numbers to get started.   Robert and Frank Gill were enrolled—I believe that first year, as the Gill family continued to stand in the forefront of supporters for the new school.  Mrs. Esther Corbridge of the Highland Church of Christ was especially enthusiastic about the chorus, and was among the first ten students.  My own teaching assignment included typing, Gregg shorthand, music theory (for probably two students), sight singing for most of the students, and a class in “office practice.”  Of course the fledgling chorus was the core of my responsibility and met for rehearsal every day.  Like spring practice for a competitive athletic team, we needed all the time we could get to be ready for presentation some time during the academic year.  After the move to Winchester, my scope of responsibility included a beginning class in German (for which I was particularly ill-prepared) and an Introduction to Philosophy course which I probably enjoyed more than the students.  All male faculty members were expected to prepare a weekly chapel talk for our morning assembly which met every day.   After Brother G. D. Knepper joined us a year or two later, every Wednesday became his responsibility (a day always anticipated eagerly by students and staff).  Our “preacher students” were invited to speak on numerous occasions.  Sixty-eight years later, I remember a particularly strong talk by Frank Gill on Psalm 15.

            My own particular problem was how to fashion a choral organization with a respectable choral sound with only ten students, not all of whom were equally gifted vocally.  There was a desire to get the chorus out to the churches and sometimes high schools to help recruit some more students and to help underwrite the ongoing costs of the college.  We were rescued by some singers who enrolled only in chorus:  my cousin, Irene Spaulding (later Mrs. Winston Allen) had a very rich contralto voice and added considerable sonority to the alto section.  Dennis Allen, teacher and minister, joined our tenor section and beefed up that section appreciably.  We hit the road by traveling in two cars, President Winston Allen’s and ours (which we acquired after Uncle Jorgie had thrust me onto the longsuffering Ebenezer congregation as a green young minister, thus necessitating our acquisition of some wheels).  We traveled around to the “cooperating churches” in Kentucky and southern Indiana with a combination of sacred choral music and selections from Great Songs of the Church.  Most of the students knew the numbers of the hymnal well enough that calling out a number would be a sufficient announcement of the next song.  Sometimes we presented a largely secular program in public high schools, with President Winston making the case for the college.  In later years we made longer sallies with two or three cars to Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, and even Missouri.  It was not until the school made the move to Winchester that an old bus of dubious character was acquired, cancelling the necessity for a caravan of private cars.  The bus, incidentally, was dubbed “Old Henry,” for reasons that have never been revealed to me.

            An interesting event in southern Indiana was a morale booster for the members of the chorus.  Preparing to sing for a public event in the city, some of the students were chatting with two or three representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, who clearly did not expect much from the little rag-tag school in Kentucky.  When the program began with Adoramus te, Christe by a member of the Palestrina school in the sixteenth century and sung in Latin, the students who had been visiting detected a major change in attention from their critics, a fact they reported with undergraduate enthusiasm!

            An interesting aspect of the KBC Chorus during the 1950’s was the fact that the chorus was the same size as the entire student body, or even a bit larger—a situation which caused Brother J. R. Clark to quip, “When we tell a church we’ll bring KBC to sing, we mean it quite literally!”  I like to hope that the choral singing experience nearly seventy years ago which brought young people together in spiritual and personal relationships also engaged them with the joy involved in the exhortation of the Psalms:  “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

 

                               Dale Jorgenson is a retired college Bible teacher and Choir Director

 

 




One Response to “Highlights From Our Heritage–Random Reminiscences from the KBC/SCC Chorus”

  1. D.L. McGee says:

    Once again, Bro Dale, I have enjoyed your reminiscences! Ever thought of making a compilation of them?

    Don



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