Stokes to conduct his final Augusta Choral Society concert

(Featured photo of Porter Stokes at a recent rehearsal courtesy Carolyn Dolen)

Porter Stokes plans to put his baton down.

After the Augusta Choral Society’s season finale concert on May 23, Stokes will take his final bow as conductor, a position he’s held for 24 years.

“These kinds of community-based symphonic choirs are rare creatures. Most serious choral directors, especially at the collegiate level, would really enjoy the association with one of those groups,” said Stokes.

The professor emeritus of music at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. Stokes has never lived in Augusta. For the greater part of his tenure as the choral society’s conductor, he drove nearly two hours one way for weekly rehearsals.

Now that he’s retired, he’s moved to Anderson, S.C. The drive is still hefty, but worth it.

Porter Stokes directs members of the Augusta Choral Society during a recent rehearsal. Photo courtesy Carolyn Dolen

“They work really hard,” he said. “They want to do major works with an orchestra. They do a lot of the hard work and hand me the baton.”

In March, the choral society performed the Brahms’ Ein Deutsche Requiem, a piece that Stokes calls “emotionally, physically and spiritually draining” because of its difficulty level. It is a favorite of his and of many choral directors, he said.

 “It was something I wanted to do before I retired,” he said. “I thought it went fabulously. It’s such a demanding work.”

 Each May, the choral society does a tribute to members of the military and first responders.

“We’re constantly looking at different ways of coming at the general theme. We don’t want to do the same repertoire,” he said.

This year, the concert will add a Scots Irish accent with a nod to the rich Gaelic heritage Augusta has. The May 23 concert at Sacred Heart Cultural Center is called Reflections on Life, Love, and Loss ​through the Scots Irish Tradition.” It will begin at 7:30 p.m.

The program will include You Raise Me Up, made popular by Josh Groban. An Irish poet penned the lyrics, and patriotic pieces such as Grand Old Flag and Yankee Doodle Dandy, written by George M. Cohan, the son of Irish immigrants, will round out the program.

 Stokes said his last few rehearsals with the choral society members have been more laid back than those in preparation for the requiem.

 The season’s “final concerts — they’re not difficult music. The rehearsals are a little lighter, joyous,  less intense, and the performance itself is just fun,” he said.

For tickets, visit the Augusta Choral Society website or call (706) 826-4713.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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