Message from Staff Parish
St. John’s Musical Magnum Opus (Omaggio a Helton and Revels)
Music marks some of the most important occasions in our lives, from weddings to funerals. We know intuitively that music can affect mood or set an occasion. Now new research suggests that performing music or singing together may be particularly powerful in developing social closeness through the release of endorphins. It can literally create a sense of group identity.
For more than two decades, two people at St. John’s have been working to bring us closer to each other and help us come together as a congregation to glorify God—Wes Revels (1993) and Mary Ann Helton (1999). As we consider all the families who have grown up under their music and tutelage, the harmony of the men’s chorus, the chancel choir, and the handbell choirs (children and adults)—their impact is monumental.
Concurrently, Mary Ann was the choral director at Rock Hill High School, when she finally retired in her 36th year in 2009. “That was my calling,” she says, “but work at St. John’s was also a joy as well as service.” Additionally, she formed the men’s chorus in 2010, has participated on a Nicaragua mission trip, and delivers food via Hunger Outreach every month. Wes has helped foster a love of music in many piano and hand bell students, has played hundreds of weddings and funerals, and served as the Mother of the Groom during the St. John’s Womanless Wedding. They have both helped with VBS, with Wes once breaking his arm on a pew the first day!
Wes and Mary Ann have been a dynamic duo, effortlessly accompanying each other, even during moments of crisis. There was a time on Christmas Eve when the organ got stuck, and Wes rushed to the basement to cut the power to the organ. Not missing a beat, Mary Ann went to the piano to keep the music going. As the adage goes, the show must go on.
In fact, this Christmas will be the first in the last 20+ years that they will have time off from Christmas music. Mary Ann’s only lament is, “We had the best seats in the house.” Wes confirms, saying, “To look out from the organ in the choir loft and see the people and candles is magical.”
And that’s one of the things they’ll miss the most. When asked if they ever anticipated staying as long as they have, neither did, but they enjoyed it every day and will miss all the people very much.
But retirement isn’t the end, it’s just one more movement in the musical composition of their lives. Mary Ann grew up at St. John’s and will continue to serve faithfully on the missions team and lead the First Sunday Food Outreach team beginning in July, but she’s excited about traveling more and spending time in the yard. Wes has promised to come back to visit and will keep in touch, but he is eager to spend more time at the beach, write some music, and study photography—his photo of the fountain at Fountain Park on Easter morning was recently featured in the Down Home magazine published by The Herald. He will also continue to teach private piano lessons.
There’s so much more that could be said about these precious people and the stories they shared, including wild antics of a monkey named Chico, but as Wes winked and chuckled—but said in all seriousness, “Don’t include this…it’s off the record.”
However, in all seriousness, Wes and Mary Ann didn’t strike it rich in their music ministry, but they have achieved a success beyond riches and fame. They have touched the lives of generations here, fostering a love of music, uplifting hearts with favorite hymns, and all the while glorifying God in their ministry to this church. They have given us beautiful music, and we are better—more united—for it.
We wish Wes and Mary Ann the very best and much happiness in their retirement. Please come congratulate them during a reception in their honor after the 11am service on Sunday, June 25th.
For the full Q and A with Wes and Mary Ann, please visit St. John’s blog: http://stjohnsrh.blogspot.com/
-Lauren Reinhardt and Staff Parish Relations Committee