First Presbyterian Church host Hymn Festival

Local4 News at Five Sunday
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 9:30 AM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - People gathered in Grand Island at First Presbyterian Church to sing in unison. The church hosted a Hymn Festival and a central Nebraska native is directing it.

Hordville native Jeremy Bankson is leading the charge. Currently, he’s the Minister of Music at Prince of Peace Lutheran in Dublin, Ohio. He’s joined by the 55-member Hastings College Choir and a mass choir made of locals and area churches.

They’ve come together to celebrate First Presbyterian’s restored pipe organ. It had been restored by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Lake City, Iowa in 2019. They were initially planning to host Hymn Festival in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic halted their plans. They packed the choir and they’re ready to celebrate music and God.

Pastor Kevin Guerink said a Hymn Festival was the best way to celebrate.

“I think it’s better than just a performance right?,” said Guerink. “You can all come and sit and listen to Jeremy perform his pieces but I think it’s better to sing together right? Where else in this world do you sing together besides karaoke or a concert somewhere.”

Guerink said the Hymn Festival is a way attendees can participate in the celebration. He said the organ is the heartbeat of music at their church, saying some churches use instruments but he feels the organ is best to sing hymns.

Director Jeremy Bankson has to find a way to keep hundreds of people in unison.

“So essentially we created a seem, ‘All Creations Sing’ which sort of encompasses a lot of different ideas and from there basically I created a narrative that will weave different themes together,” said Bankson. “Once we kind of all agreed on the hymns that will be a part of the festival I put together a package and sent it out to the directors.”

Bankson said Hastings College was the core choir, and they have been preparing in multiple ways.

“We’ve prepared by practicing two hours on Mondays or Tuesdays and Thursdays and we used this music for some of our concerts as well, so we’re pretty prepared in that sense; and getting to know each other as a choir is really important as well. It’s a team and every choir member is important,” said Rachel Smith.

Smith said simply sitting next to someone new in the choir can help them get to know each other.