Serving the High Plains

Cantata will be last for director

The Quay County Community Choir’s annual Christmas-season performance this Friday will be the finale for the choir’s first and only director, Harold Sloan.

Sloan announced to members at their penultimate rehearsal last week the performance would be his last after guiding the group since 2007.

“It’s just time,” he said during an interview. “My hearing is one thing. I’m on my second set of hearing aids to try to improve the sound.

“I’m going to be 76 pretty soon. I’ve got grandkids. I’ve got (relatives) who I don’t get to see because I’m here (for rehearsals) on Wednesdays and Sundays. It’s hard to plan between that to go somewhere.”

The annual free cantata at 7 p.m. Friday, titled “A Promise Kept: The Blessing of Christmas,” typically draws hundreds of people to the Center Street United Methodist Church in Tucumcari. The crowd in previous years had been so large, folding chairs were added along the front and back of the pews.

“I’m pretty excited about the program,” he said.

Sloan formed the choir shortly after becoming the church’s music director in 2005. He said he organized a cantata there in 2006 and another at a San Jon church the same year.

After that, he hatched the idea to combine the choirs in 2007. Performances have continued since, though it’s been formally called the Quay County Community Choir for only a few years.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the choir to cancel performances.

“I almost didn’t do it again this year because I was afraid we’d get hit again,” Sloan said of the virus. “But I’ve told people if they were sick to stay away until you got better. It’s worked out really well. Hopefully, this will keep us going for a few more days.”

The virus affected the choir as it did virtually all corners of American life. Sloan said one member’s spouse died because of the disease. He said the choir also lost several members — one was afraid of COVID-19, another “wasn’t quite ready yet” to rejoin the choir after the pandemic, and another moved from the area.

Sloan said was cautiously optimistic attendance for the cantata this year would approach pre-pandemic levels.

“I’ll be really curious to see what our attendance is like this year,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about the program.”

He said support for the cantata has remained healthy, including funds from the locally based McMullen Community Foundation to cover music and sound-system costs.

Sloan said he “probably” also would step down as the church’s music director.

He admitted “I don’t know what’s going to happen” to the Quay County Community Choir after its performance Friday. He said he has no successor in mind to direct the singers.

“It’s been something I’m going to miss, I’ll tell you that much,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but I have so many memories about the music that we’ve done that is so special.”

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