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High school age men meet weekly to sing in the League of David. Director and arranger Mark Hierholzer encourages young men to sing with a powerful, engaging, life-affirming approach. Photo by Phil Houseal

The League of David will perform at the Midwinter Concert of the Fredericksburg Chorale on Saturday, Feb 2, at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. at the Historical Society. The group rehearses every Sunday evening. For information on the group, contact Mark Hierholzer at 997-6869.

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League of their own

by Phil Houseal
Jan 30 2008

It is a lamentable fact of our culture that adolescent guys are reluctant to try activities perceived as less than masculine - singing, dancing, and acting come to mind. Yet some of Fredericksburg's finest young men - including state champion football hunks - gather every Sunday to sing original chorale music just for the inspiration and joy it creates.

They make up the League of David, a group of 15 male students in grades 8 through 12.

The concept began when Ann Dickie and Mark Hierholzer, both experienced choir directors, looked at guys that age and saw they weren't being exposed to music that spoke to them or that challenged them. So Hierholzer, who is also a composer, began putting 40 psalms to music specifically to address this group.

"There is an association of this singing and their lives," he explained. "It's not that we are singing so we can go up there and be another performance group. The psalms are seen as the words of David and the words of Christ. When we sing them they must become our words as well."

Hierholzer and Dickie recognized that the group required a more visceral, physical musical approach. Hierholzer is teaching them to sing four parts in their natural voices, without accompaniment.

"We are trying to get to the real nature, the roughness, the edge in the music," Hierholzer said. "The Christ in the scriptures is really an amazing and powerful man, who overturned the money changing tables and said astounding things. You must step up to life right now - you must decide right now to live. That's a thrilling thing."

The high school students respond to the approach.

"It makes it very physical by what he requires of us, that we sing from the very deepest part of us, that we use all the air in our lungs," Evan Williamson said. "That puts a lot more power and passion in what we do."

Jake Akin agreed. "Mr. Hierholzer has a lot of passion and encourages us to let our passions out; to live out our passion to the fullest. That's another way we are able to release that."

Dickie is gratified by how the young men have embraced the concept.

"They have a great sense of pride for it and they should," she said. "There is so much power in it, there's something about it that's so immediate, it has so much authenticity. They're doing something that I think can change the world."

I asked the high schoolers if they felt any embarrassment about stepping off the athletic field onto the choir stage.

"We are all friends and we all know each other," said Dan Culpepper. "None of us are really good singers; none of us are professionals. But it doesn't really matter when we just sing together, when we put our hearts into it."

"Mr. Hierholzer talks to us about people who do not always believe what they are singing," Kirk Kroeger said. "That's what puts us past the level of being embarrassed or even caring if we're good or not. It is that we believe in what we are singing. When you put passion into anything - football, academics, any of those things - you try and do it to the utmost of your capabilities."

The guys may not completely understand the power they project. But their mothers do.

"They sing from the heart," said Pam Dale, whose son Kody is in the League. "It's because it comes from way down and it's just awesome. You just see these guys so involved. I've never seen anything like it."

Dickie's son Jess is also one of the group.

"I just want them to know I care about this. Every now and then I'll tell them that men singing like that to the kingdom of God is the most powerful thing I have experienced ever - ever. It is just overwhelming."