Native son: What a night

by Charles D Novak

On Saturday March 2, one of our coldest bone chilling nights, St John’s University Men’s Chorus arrived in Ely and gave a performance which I don’t think anyone who was there will ever forget! Twenty three male voices in perfect harmony with each other singing spiritual and popular music in the great hall of St Anthony’s Church.
The Chorus was founded in 1948 by Father James Kelly. The present director is Axel Theimer and I had the great pleasure of meeting him when I arrived at the church. He had just finished rehearsing his group before they went downstairs to change into their performance attire.
In 1960 the chorus at that time made their first of many trips to Europe. They also perform frequently for state and regional music conventions for which they have received numerous prizes and awards.
The singers of this choir represent a wide variety of musical backgrounds. They are all four year college students at St John’s. Their director Dr Alex Theimer is a native of Austria where he was a member of the Vienna Boys Choir. He is in his 49th year as director of the St John’s Chorus.
The first half of the performance consisted of religious hymns which were stunningly beautiful and sung to perfection. Not a wrong note in the group! After the intermission we came back to toe tapping popular music which had the entire church joining in the fun by singing along with the chorus, clapping their hands and at one point snapping their fingers. It made me forget I was sitting in a church where Mass is held.
Unfortunately because of the freezing weather the attendance was not what it should have been for this fantastic young group of male singers. The concert was free but they did pass a basket around for donations.
The good people of Ely put up these singers in their own home’s to save on motel and hotel costs. The three soloists had outstanding voices and the entire chorus was as good as anything I’ve heard at the Metropolitan Opera. I couldn’t give higher praise for this group then that!
Hopefully they will return to Ely and if they do, treat yourself to a once in a life time singing performance! Alex Theimer also acknowledged the sponsorship of the Ely Echo at the end of the evening.