The Frederick News-Post
FREDERICK, Md. - Gail Slezak, chancel choir director at the Church of the Brethren, is retiring after more than 42 years of service to the church.
"This will be the first time since I graduated from college that I will not have a choir to direct," Slezak said. "I've been at this church longer than I've been married."
The church will honor her June 10 at its annual Music Celebration Sunday, she said, by presenting a piece by composer Joseph Martin commissioned in her honor.
"I think it's the nicest tribute that could be paid to me," she said. "I appreciate those people who have stuck with me all these years."
Slezak's time at the church had many memorable moments, she said, including performing in front of 6,000 people as the featured choir at the annual conference of the Church of the Brethren in Baltimore and performing in Luray Caverns.
"We just felt we had to do Luray Caverns," she said. "You should hear the echo."
She also enjoyed traveling with the choir to Williamsburg, Va., for a performance in the historic Bruton Parish church, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson attended when the Legislature was in session.
Music has always played a special role in worship for her and at the church, Slezak said. She tries to coordinate the message of the music with the sermon.
"I choose carefully every Sunday," she said. "Music is such an integral part of worship."
The Church of the Brethren has more than 10 independently led musical groups.
"The music ministry is so strong here," Slezak said. "I can't imagine a worship service without it."
She was proud to have introduced more challenging and new styles of music to the congregation, she said.
"Not everyone likes classicals, not everyone likes spirituals. If you do a variety, you're bound to make someone happy some of the time."
Ann Flora, who sang in the choir for 19 years, said she appreciated the range of music.
"She chose a big span," Flora said. "She would go from old classics, to spirituals, to more modern songs."
Slezak has been constantly active in the community, Flora said.
She was a teacher for 30 years until she retired in 1995. She started the choir program at Catoctin High School, where she worked for 26 years.
Slezak volunteers, reads, gardens and exercises at a spa, she said, and also substitutes almost every day in two local high schools.
"She's involved in a lot of things," Flora said. "You make your home that way."
When Slezak retires from the church, she wants to travel.
"My goal is to travel to every continent before I die," she said. "Well, I have no desire to go to Antarctica."
She has been blessed to lead the choir for so long, she said.
"I've spent my life in this robe. I've never thought of it as a job. It's just my music ministry to the Lord to direct this choir."
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
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