The below article was written by Dr. Eugene Murphey and was published in The Tower newsletter of March 2007. Dr. Murphey gives a history of these missionaries and their importance to the Presbyterian church. The below is but one part of Dr. Murphey’s research. Additional articles will be added soon!
The music program history at Tupelo FPC has many facets besides the chancel choir that was mentioned in some detail last month. There have been various times over the years a Youth Choir, A Presbyteen Choir, a Cherub Choir and various other named or unnamed groups that have added their collective voices to the worship services in the church.
One of the most memorable Youth Sunday services that I can recall occurred in 1970 when rock and roll music had become popular. Of course, the youth involved insisted that the music be amplified, and large speakers were placed in the church as well as outside on the front lawn. The music and program speakers were heard with no difficulty. Our younger son, Steven Murphey, played ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ on the Tracker organ, and Richard McCarty gave an inspirational sermonette entitled ‘God Is A Blast!’ John Raspberry, Joey Hutto, Talley Barnes, and Alice Rogers are a few of the remembered participants. The youth group also sang the current Beatles song, ‘Let It Be’ and George Harrison’s song ‘My Sweet Lord.’ We believe that Virginia Armstrong was the DCE who was doing her best at that time to control the exuberance of the youth group.
Glen Thomas remembers another Youth Sunday a few years later when high-level amplification was again used for the service. According to Glen, several of the ‘blue hairs’ (older members with gray hear) got up and left when the music started. That particular youth group was dominated by boys – thirteen boys and two girls – who had to be monitored and controlled by more than one senior adult. Lyle Megginson, Wade Purcel, and Chris Mills were a few of the male youth members as well as two girls, Sheldon Miles and Tonya Stein.
Music instruments of all types have been used and are still used at FPC, and there have even been small symbolic groups providing a variety of sacred music. A ‘baby grand’ piano was donated to the church about sixty years ago by Mrs. Albert (Mable) Medlin, and this instrument was in the chancel area for several years. It was later moved to the Fellowship Hall assembly room because of space problems in the choir area, and the present upright piano just below the chancel was purchased to replace the larger instrument.
Another outstanding contribution to FPC’s music program has been the Hand Bell Choir which has been conducted by several church members of the year. Jo Orr, then choir director, conducted the first handbell group which included Nancy Ingram as a pioneer member. Jo was followed later by music director Ken Courtney, More recently Bob Lence and currently our interim choir director, Kathy Anderson, have made great special music with the bell ringers. Bob Lence has also provided his expertise with the Scottish bagpipes, kilted and all, for special church historical events. Bob’s wife, Sheree Lence, an accomplished French horn player and a regular member of the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra, has also provided special music for church services.
Over the years many church members too numerous to name have organized and directed the various children and youth singing groups in providing wonderful music for worship, education, and pleasure in the church. Our present youth choir director, Melody Webb, is doing a great job in carrying on that tradition.