Patriotic concert

An annual Buena Vista tradition, the Patriotic Concert at Grace Church in Buena Vista offers 9 a.m., and 1 p.m., performances on July Fourth.

Join the Grace Church choir in celebrating Independence Day through song during the annual Patriotic Concert. The choir sings at 9 a.m. and again at 1 p.m.

The annual Patriotic Concert began as an event to bring more people to Grace Church to see the Quilts of Valor quilts on display.

Since then, it has grown considerably, says choir director Betty Dethmers. The singers even wear patriotic scarves made by a church member a few years ago.

“The concert has also grown to the point that about 5 years ago we went to two concerts because we couldn’t get everybody in the church for one. We now do one before the parade and one after the parade,” Dethmers says.

Born in Canada, Dethmers became a U.S. citizen in 2004. She has served as choir director since then.

As such, the Patriotic Concert hold important meaning to her.

“My brother was in the army for 3 years. Even though he was dual citizenship, he chose to become an American when he was 18 by joining the American army. It means a lot to me with his history as well. And my brother is deceased so it is especially important to me,” she says.

Among their songs this year, the choir will perform a sing-along for the audience to join and a medley tribute to the armed services. There will also be two separate pieces of music with the same title, “Heal Our Land.”

A piccolo player will perform some Sousa marches, and a handbell quartet will also play under the direction of church organist Edgar Butler.

After receiving the handbells as a retirement present from his wife, Butler tried to organize a bell choir at Grace Church. Due to the church’s small size, however, they had to shrink back to a handbell quartet.

“I actually have a fifth member that joined us this spring, so I’m backing off and just directing,” Butler says. “Normally what happens is with just the four of us, we have to kind of watch each other rather than having a director in front to keep good time.”

This year, the concert features more of a community choir than just the available church members. “We try to involve as many of the church people as we can,” Dethmers says. “We’ve got the largest choir we’ve ever had with 19 voices this year.”

Among these voices is Bonnie Young who has been involved in the Grace Church choir for 14 years and also coordinates the Quilts of Valor. There are around 19 quilts already on display with descriptions available for each.

“When we’re doing all this practicing and everything, you go, ‘It’s never going to work.’ Every year when we do it and the audience responds to what we’re doing, it’s worth all the time that we’ve put in and all the things we’re trying to say and sing about. That’s what’s exciting to me, the audience appreciating what we’ve done,” Young says. She hopes that many people will be able to come and enjoy the concert.

Dethmers is also delighted to see how much the audience has enjoyed the concert over the years. “They come back each year,” she says. “Some people, when they come to the first concert at 9 o’clock, they like it so much that they come back to the one at 1 o’clock. That’s a good tribute to us, I think.”

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