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Jun 01, 2017 | Carol E. Barnwell

I was Glad to Engage the Community

St. Cyprian’s, Lufkin, recently released a music CD, entitled I Was Glad, with choristers from St. Cyprian’s and the A Cappella Choir of Stephen F. Austin University. Recorded at St. Martin’s, Houston, the CD was underwritten by a generous gift from Jerry and Carol Moore, long-time members of the Lufkin congregation in hope that it will raise awareness of the church within the Lufkin community. Part of their gift also went to a music scholarship fund at SFA.

Greg Simmons, St. Cyprian’s organist and choir director, said the CD and other musical ventures will help their community come together around music as well as provide a way for people to interact with members of the church and choir. The CD took a year to plan and produce, with Simmons calling on colleagues from Arkansas, Nashville and Chicago for help with audio, video and graphics. The CD is available for sale on iTunes and Amazon.

“We wanted to do something with the great musical tradition of the Anglican/Episcopal Church,” Simmons said. He gathered a group of more than 60 students and choir members and, after practicing the well-known hymns and several anthems, headed to Houston to record. “I’m very happy with the results and grateful that the Moores trusted me with the project,” he said.

The night before recording day, all the tech people gathered with the choir to practice one last time. They left at 5 a.m. for Houston and by 9 a.m. were recording in St. Martin’s soaring nave, with SFA’s Dr. Tim King conducting. They were finished with the 16 tracks in just five hours.

“Some of the students said it was the favorite thing they’d done in their education,” Simmons said. “Our choir didn’t realize how much work went into this until they witnessed what our audio engineers had to do, and the techs—who are not actively religious—said they didn’t know there was such beautiful Christian music out there.”

“The Moores' donation will help some needy students participate in our upcoming tour in Germany to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” King said, adding, “But more than this, the project turned into a Spirit-led experience for both my students and myself. I am so thankful to have been a part of such a noble and spiritual event.”

Young and young at heart gathered to create the musical offering for their Lufkin community, which was recorded at St. Martin's, Houston.

"I Was Glad" available on itunes & amazon or at stcyprianschurch.org

When Simmons started work at St. Cyprian’s, there were four choir members. “In the past two years, we’ve made some great strides and the music program continues to develop,” Simmons said. He plans concerts in the community, and special services and musical events at the church—as well as a small chamber choir.

While more church members have joined St. Cyprian’s choir, several are paid or participate because they “enjoy the music and the challenge,” Simmons said. The church hosted an All Saints Day concert at which the choir performed the Gabriel Faure’s Requiem. Twenty-five people from the community participated with the choir and “some enjoyed it so much, they began attending church,” he said.

Simmons studied organ performance at Henderson State University in Arkansas and has been playing in churches since he was 15 years old. “Honestly, once I got [to St. Cyprian’s], the people are totally the nicest and most sincere people I’ve met in my life. [Because of them] Lufkin feels like home to me,” said the Tyler native.

“I hope as long as someone is singing a hymn with us or listening to a track from on our CD, they are transported to the divine,” Simmons said. “I hope people will find a copy of this CD and realize there is a church in deep East Texas that loves good music, spreads the gospel and worships through this album. It is a testament to the things we love.”

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