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Reunion Concert Is Retiring Choir Director’s Swan Song

When it comes to performing, Jim Copeland is a pro. He’s been directing choirs since his dad volunteered him to lead music at a friend’s congregation, Nebraska Avenue Church of Christ. He was just 15 at the time.

"In fact, I had to ride a streetcar over there because I didn’t have a driver’s license at that time," said Copeland, 78.


Since then, Copeland has racked up quite a resume.

"Here, we have a very strict procedure for being in the choir. We check your pulse."

"Here, we have a very strict procedure for being in the choir. We check your pulse," Copeland joked.


"I feel sad," Bateham said, tearing up. "I followed him to this church, and I’ve been singing with him for 22 years here at Forest Hills Presbyterian. He was my music teacher in high school, and he just touches so many lives, so it’s really hard tonight."


About 50 of Copeland’s former students were in the crowd Sunday night. Even though Copeland left his teaching job in 1982, he still runs into old Chamberlain students from time to time, and he keeps in touch with some on Facebook.

Credit Dalia Colón / WUSF
Church and community members lined up for entry to Copeland's final public concert.


"He (Carter) walked out with us and said, 'Listen, when I’m president, you’re doing to come to the White House. I want the nation to hear you,'" Copeland recalled. "So he did. On, I think, March 8, 1977, we went to the White House... Found out the acoustics in the East Room are tremendous."


“We always ended our concerts with the Lutkin arrangement of The Lord Bless You and Keep You. Even when I was at Chamberlain we did that. We do that here, too. I’ve always done that piece for my 60 years," Copeland said.


When the song ended, one choir member asked if they could sing it again. Copeland was too choked up to answer.

"I host a food podcast" is a great icebreaker at parties.
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