St Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church Choir
The church choir began as a children’s choir in 1960 following the untimely death of the Cantor and Choir Director Ted Verbich at the early age of 33. Ted was the son of our former Cantor and Choir Director George Verbich and the brother of Wilma (Verbich) Heffelfinger one of our present day choir members. During the 1961 summer catechism classes, Father Rapach asked Rita (Zema) Benya to take over the responsibilities of Choir Director and teach the children of the parish the Prostopinia, or Plain Chant. Rita held regular choir practice sessions in the basement of the church on 1st St in Barberton. Both children and young adults learned to sing the responses and melodies of the Liturgy. As the years progressed, four-part harmony hymns for Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Communion were added to the repertoire of the young choir. As the children matured in age, so did their voices and talents as a church choir. More and more four-part harmony songs were added to the Liturgy for the praise and glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The choir transformed from a children’s choir to an adult and children’s choir as the original members matured and additional parishioners joined in. At one time we had as many as 20 members in the St. Nicholas Choir.
Through the years the choir, performed at various local events:
- 1962- Lake Anna Cherry Blossom Festival
- 1965- St Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church as part of Unity Octave Services
- 1965 to present day- Countless wedding ceremonies and funeral services
- 1970 through 1990s- Parish picnic performances
- 1980- E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall in Akron: folk choir performances for Ethnic Festival
- 2005- Recorded our first CD to include Marian, Christmas, Lenten and Easter Hymns with over 800 CD sales and still counting
- 2005 & 2006- Joint choir performance with St Elia and St Michael choir members for the Akron Children’s Hospital Christmas Tree Lighting Celebrations at Quaker Square
- 2006- Sang the responses for the Presanctified Liturgy at St Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church for students of The University of Akron with our Bishop John Kudrick as Celebrant
- 2006 & 2008- Featured choir for the Carpatho-Rusyn Society Vatra Liturgy at the Shrine of Mariapoch in Burton, Oh
- 2008- Requested to sing for the Liturgy and Ceremony of the sub-deaconship of Richard Plishka at St John’s Cathedral in Parma, Oh
- 2008- Preparing to record yet another CD of Liturgical songs in Old Slavonic.
47 years later, Rita Benya is still our Choir Director and she is fortunate to have one of our tenors, Gladys Keegan, as her back-up director. Through the years we have been blessed with choir members from the following St Nicholas families: *Senderak, *Benya, Lesney, McNoskey, Goodnight, Ragaji, Rammel, *Heffelfinger, Hornyak, Girhin, Eup, Corej, McDonald, Cornell, Hart, Angeletti, Yurko, *Miller, *Keegan, *Koval, *Evancho, *Rozaieski, *Baker, *Blanar, *Chadbourne, *Eckman, *Gegick, Knipp, *Seay, *Timura, Grove, *Williams.
Although we are no longer strictly a children’s choir, we are continually encouraging new members, young and old, to join in our unceasing hymns of praise to our Lord. We are not professional singers or soloists, but we enjoy singing together and welcome you to join us!
* denotes current choir members
By Jean Seay