History: Messiah in Grand Blanc
Meet Frank Walker
Frank is responsible for the first Community Sing of Händel’s “Messiah” in 1988 and then became and remained the man behind all subsequent performances until 2012. When asked what gave Frank the idea, he said he saw a 1987 “Messiah” sing-a-long performance televised from San Francisco on PBS and thought, Grand Blanc should have something like that! So, after thinking about it, he contacted the then Grand Blanc High School band director, Dave Ryan and Dave’s wife Betty, who was a local soprano soloist. Together, the three solicited help from another musician friend, Mary McClelland. Next came the need for a performance site and Father James R. Swiat volunteered Holy Family. The first Grand Blanc “Community Sing” occurred on Sunday, December 11, 1988 at 4:00 p.m. in the sanctuary of Holy Family Catholic Church. Mary McClellan was music director, Jeanne Wagner was the organist, and the rest is history.
Frank was born in Pennsylvania and came to Flint in 1950 to attend GMI – now Kettering University. He has sung in the choirs at Flint’s First Presbyterian Church, Grand Blanc’s Kirkridge Presbyterian Church, and was an eight-year member of the Michigan-Ohio Concert Choir under the direction of Thurlo Spurr. He is married to his wife Sallie of 56 years and they have two children, Kim and Tim, and eleven grandchildren.
We thank Frank Walker for his great vision and dedication to his dream. This event has continued over the years because of Frank’s willingness to work and encourage other people to help: from his work place in Imlay City to his church, Kirkridge Presbyterian here in Grand Blanc. He is also responsible for finding sponsors: from the Grand Blanc Arts Council to the Grand Blanc Foundation to support the event as it grew from a relatively small group of singers and their friends, relatives, and community members into a large group of singers and many more friends, relatives, and community members.
Since 2012, Lavonne C. Bomeli has chaired the event. Although there have been some changes, elements of Frank’s original concept are still included. The performance moves from one Grand Blanc church to another each year, a guest director from the area is invited to head the now rehearsals and the performance, the community is invited to become members in the chorus, and area soloists are invited to audition to perform the arias and recitatives. One of the most important changes is the addition of two rehearsals for the community chorus. At these rehearsals, the chorus members can become familiar with the directing style of the guest conductor and either learn or refresh their knowledge of each of the choruses to be sung. However, this event still remains “Frank Walker’s Vision.” And, each year more and more people from not only the Grand Blanc community but communities from the greater area around Grand Blanc are coming to sing, listen, and enjoy what started in 1988.