Irwin Male Chorus member John Jeffries still singing after 56 years |

Irwin Male Chorus member John Jeffries still singing after 56 years

Paul Peirce

The Rolling Stones have seemingly been around forever. But Mick Jagger, 75, has nothing on 81-year-old John Jeffries when it comes to longevity with the same musical group.

In 1962, the same year Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards joined the late Brian Jones to form the legendary British rock band, Jeffries — then a draftsman with the Elliott Co. in Jeannette — made a life-changing decision and joined the Irwin Male Chorus.

Fifty-six years later, Jeffries is still singing tenor with the 106-year-old community chorus.

“I’ve always loved singing, I play a trumpet, I’ve sang in the church choir, but this has always been a great group of very talented guys,” Jeffries said.

“I used to carpool from Greensburg to Elliott Co. with two guys I worked with who were in the chorus and they sold me tickets to a show in 1961. It was a fantastic experience, and the next year I joined myself,” Jeffries said.

His devotion to the chorus for more than five decades impresses other members as well. Even those who have been around for several years, such as Brian Blackall of Irwin.

“It’s just awesome what John’s done here. It’s an amazing feat to have that kind of commitment,” Blackall said.

P.J. Spires, president of the choir, said the Irwin group is the oldest continuous running chorus performing in North America, having formed in 1913.

Jeffries, whose longevity has allowed him to participate in the chorus’s 50th, 75th and 100th anniversary shows, said he was told the chorus had its roots with an Irwin church.

“(It) started in 1913 at the First Methodist Church in Irwin. They needed a group of guys to do some entertaining at a banquet, so a bunch of the parishioners got together and sang,” Jeffries said.

“Shortly thereafter that, they decided they liked it so much they formed a group, invited others in the community, and it continued to grow and grow and grow,” he said.

Blackall noted the chorus is made up of businessmen, doctors and many retirees. Twenty-one-year-old Alex Faulds of Greensburg is the youngest member, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who also were chorus members.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Blackall said.

In its prime in the 1960s though 1980s, the chorus used to have more than 70 members, but today has about 20.

On a recent Monday evening at the First Baptist Church of Greensburg, near the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg campus, as temperatures outside dipped into the low teens, some 16 chorus members attended the weekly practice. The singers joined longtime director Forrest Moore and piano accompanist Cindy Kunkle to prepare for this year’s spring show, May 19 at 3 and 7 p.m. at The Lamp Theatre in Irwin.

The show is “A Salute to the Hardworking American.” Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children.

“And we’re going to have a quintet of women singing some of the songs with us. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Jeffries said.

In addition to the spring concert, the chorus performs about six sacred concerts at churches throughout the county every fall.

“We’ve always been a hard-working group of guys who really do put out a good sound,” he said.

Jeffries, who now commutes from his home in Gibsonia, Allegheny County, for practices and performances, has no plans to give it up any time soon.

“I figure as long as I can still walk, I’ll be here,” he said.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, ppeir[email protected] or via Twitter .

Paul Peirce | Tribune-Review
John Jeffries, a member of the Irwin Male Chorus, displays a plaque from the group’s 100th anniversary show in 2013 during a recent practice March 4, 2019. Jeffries, 81, has been singing with the chorus since 1962.
Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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