Sometimes at church when presented with an unfamiliar hymn, while struggling to catch on, one wonders: Who picked this? Let’s sing something we know!
When I spoke to Jeff Hunt this week, knowing that it was he who, as director of music at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church for the last 28 years, was responsible, I confessed my frustration.
Just as I had long since appreciated, he is guiding us to be up for the challenge.
Just last week there was a celebration to recognize his many gifts, as a choral director, teacher and one who has mastered the art of connecting music and spirituality. No, he is not retiring and his years of service do not add up to one of the customary benchmarks.
Jeff recalls and appreciates the simple joy of the day that included special music presentations (how about a 10 clarinet ensemble and a luncheon gathering!)
Wondering how he was inspired to pursue a career in music? Jeff credits his predecessor, B.G. Gross, his high school choral director, John Stoffel, and faculty mentors at Taylor University and Northwestern. Without question the entire Hunt family personifies the love for music and takes various roles in support of the arts and music in their community and Jeff stresses the importance of his family.
When asked about the process he follows in selecting sacred choral music, Jeff talks about the setting and intention. And, recalling his attitude about challenge, he noted the ability of a given group to reach beyond.
As the longtime leader of his many church choirs and his popular and respected St. Charles Singers, Jeff adds that he strives, too, for balance.
“There is a concept in Native-American lore that explains choices – choosing a mango means that the substance is immediately accessible, the sweetness is right there.” He goes on, “The choice of a coconut represents the work to get beyond the struggle of the hard outer shell to the immense reward of what is inside.”
Another element of his perspective is his appreciation of the music of the world.
My challenge was to imagine that he had won a raffle and won two tickets to the music that he would most enjoy.
After a long pause he selected the “Bass B minor Mass.” When asked who the performers would be, he replied without hesitation, “The St. Charles Singers!”
I offered, in fairness, that my favorite genre was not as sophisticated. Treat me to the sound of a marching band.
On that note (sorry) I bargained with him to add “Varsity,” the Wisconsin alma mater, to my funeral arrangements.
What’s next? He loves his role at Baker Memorial just as much today as his first day, and looks forward to many more years. OK, Jeff, what’s the next challenge?
• Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle’s Neighbors section every other Friday. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.