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One last performance

Civic Choral Society concerts ending with opera Sunday

March 16, 2012
The Herald-Star

After more than four decades of bringing and fostering quality sacred choral music locally twice a year, the Civic Choral Society founded by Steve and Marti Spurlock comes to a close Sunday with its final performance - the one-act opera "The Three Hermits."

It will be presented at First Westminster Presbyterian Church, 235 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, beginning at 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children under age 12.

"I want to thank everyone for supporting us, especially the singers and those who supported us financially. "Those are the best things," Steve said when asked for his thoughts on Sunday bringing the final performance since the society's beginning in 1971.

Article Photos

Marti and Steve Spurlock, Civic Choral Society founders
-- File photo, Janice R. Kiaski

"The Three Hermits" is based on the short story of Leo Tolstoy and written by Stephen Paulus and Michael Dennis Browne who also added some female characters to produce a balanced cast, according to Marti.

Adapted into an opera, the story depicts an Orthodox bishop, his mother, crew members and pilgrims aboard a ship on the White Sea in Russia. They are headed for a religious retreat when they are told of three old hermits living unusual lives on a barren island close by. Curiosity and his feeling of obligation compel the bishop to visit these hermits. He spends the whole day instructing them with few results. In a surprise ending, the bishop will learn far more from them than he could have taught them.

The performance involves "a slew of family members." In addition to the Spurlocks, it includes their three children and their spouses: Emily and Tim Brown, Sarah and Jim Biggs, and Mitch Spurlock. Then there's Steve's brother, Wayne Spurlock, and Marti's brother, Tal Burkett.

"This has always been an aspect of the Civic Choral Society - families from all over the Tri-State Area participating together," Marti said, citing as an example "Donna Wise, who recently died, sang with her sister, Jody Popejoy, and Jody's daughters, Lois and Lisa from Toronto, and joining them was a niece, Jackie Nixon from Weirton."

"Then there are sisters Ruth Stevens from Cadiz and Jane Fisher from Knoxville, Jane's daughter Judy Edmonds, her husband, Mike, and his brother Butch," Marti added, citing other examples being "mother and daughter Sue Scott and Sarah Barnette and her husband Paul."

Deloris Quinn and her daughter Janis Ferguson come from Brilliant to sing, Marti continued. Three generations in Joyce Jackson, grandmother; Debbie Abrams, daughter; and Amanda Abrams, granddaughter; have come in from Wintersville, Marti notes, and couples have always come to sing, too.

She lists some of them from through the years - "Evie and Dan Bodor, Emily and Tim Brown, Andy and Jackie Hutyera of Cadiz, John and Jean Jeffrey; Dave France and his wife, Chris; Judy and Mike Edmonds, Tom and Joan Dohnal, Ruth and Kent Markwell, Craig and Donna McCasland, Eleanor and Dale Hewitt, Jody and Carolyn Glaub ... the list triples over 42 years," Marti reflects.

"Surely every town has been represented: Mingo Junction along with Cadiz, Richmond, Wellsburg, Follansbee and Wheeling, even as far north as New Cumberland. Musicians are traveling from Pittsburgh, Mars and Canonsburg, Pa., and Morgantown and Wheeling," she said.

Aside from the Spurlocks, Bill Murtland is one of the original society participants still involved.

Choruses are almost entirely based on words from the Russian Orthodox liturgy, and an 11-piece orchestra accompanies the opera.

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