Wilmington choir taking its Christmas concert on the road to New York City’s Lincoln Center

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WILMINGTON — A Port City tradition is getting the chance to shine at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Composer Pepper Choplin. (Photo Courtesy pepperchoplin.com)

The First Baptist Church Chancel Choir has performed an annual Christmas concert for 22 years. This year, they are taking it on the road. The choir will perform as part of Lincoln Center’s Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) series. They will share the stage with other top choirs to perform the premier of North Carolina composer Pepper Choplin’s “Go Sing It On the Mountain: A Christmas Cantana.”

Ely Moskowitz, speaking on behalf of DCINY, said the series is very selective. DCINY screened audition material from both national and international composers and choirs before deciding on Choplin’s “Christmas Cantana.”

Steve Thomason, First Baptist’s minister of traditional worship, said the choir became involved with the DCINY series through Dr. Larry Dickens. Dickens is an associate professor of church music at Campbell University. Thomason said Dr. Dickens was looking for talented North Carolina choirs to perform with Choplin.

Thomason, who is also the choir director, said the group is very excited. Thirty-eight members of the choir will leave, “very, very early in the morning” by bus on Nov. 25, arriving in New York City in time for a series of rehearsals. Thomason and the First Baptist choir will join 10 other choirs for the performance, including several other North Carolina groups.

“A considerable part of our interest in Pepper is that he’s local,” Thomason said. “We’re not signing work by some composer from across the ocean. He’s a part of our community, he’s from Raleigh, and he’s got a church in Apex, and so that’s very cool.”

First Baptist Church Choir Director Steven Thomason. (Photo Courtesy DCINY).

Thomason went on to praise Choplin’s composition for both elevating holiday music and bring it to a wider audience.

“Pepper is really good at turning common tunes, these hymns that everyone knows, and turning them into pieces that work well in the choral setting. He’s giving these carols a new twist, and making choral music really accessible,” Thomason said.

The First Baptist Church choir performs with Pepper Choplin in the Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, on Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. Get information on the DCINY series here. Visit Lincoln Center’s site for ticket information here. Listen to a preview of Choplin’s piece here.


For a preview of the Choir, listen below to “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (arr. David Wilcocks). The piece is an excerpt from Christmas at First Baptist,” recorded Dec. 11-13, 2015, with Steve Thomason conducting. (The Chancel Orchestra begins the piece with the choir joining at the 0:40 mark).