Members of local Christian denominations are coming together Sunday to raise their voices in song for the 12th Annual Hymn Festival.

Hosted by St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church, the festival starts at 2 p.m. and features a number of popular selections. Some are performed by featured choral groups accompanied by musicians, while others include the entire church assembly.

“The community looks forward to this event every year,” said Maryann Hockstad, one of the organizers. “We always have a nice-sized crowd with wonderful participation from churches, choral groups and musicians, making this a memorable experience. The annual Hymn Festival is all about community.”

The festival’s “Give Thanks and Sing” theme celebrates November as America’s traditional month of thanks. Sunday’s festival will also pay tribute to veterans, in honor of Veterans Day.

Reynaldo Romo, music minister for both St. Andrew and Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic churches, is returning as the event’s director. Romo will be joined by organist Lars Andersen from Tanque Verde Lutheran Church in Tucson, as well as pianist Billie Hayes from Sierra Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Vista. Musicians on string, horn and percussion also contribute to the production.

Under the direction of Jill Brown, Buena High School’s 22-member advanced choir, the Rhythmix, will be performing an acapella piece called “It is Well With My Soul,” a BYU (Brigham Young University) Vocal Point arrangement, Brown said. Sunday’s event marks Buena’s second Hymn Festival performance.

“The Rhythmix are such a talented group of young people, and were a huge hit last year,” Hockstad said. “We’re delighted to have them back.”

The Hymn Festival Choir is performing “I Bring a Heart of Thanks” by Pepper Choplin and will be featured in other hymns.

Pastor Shawn Buckhanan of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church is leading a gospel hymn. Back by popular demand, the Pastors’ Chorus will gather at the front of the church to lead a favorite hymn.

The annual event fosters a feeling of fellowship and community among the hymn festival congregation, said Canyon Vista Medical Center Chaplain Ray Bingham, who added, “It is wonderful to see the ecumenical community come together for such a wonderful time of celebration and praise.”

While the event is free, an offering will be taken to benefit the Warrior Healing Center, Hockstad said. The center’s mission is to create a place where veterans and their families can get help with services they need. The center hosts 37 veteran service organizations rent free, while providing a broad spectrum of support.

“Every year, proceeds from the festival’s free-will offering are given to a local nonprofit,” Hockstad said. “Because this year’s festival is the day before Veterans Day, the veterans center was chosen to receive the money we raise.”


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