Church’s music director helms final Christmas concert

EVERETT — They came for the Christmas music, but also for a farewell.

John Sinkevitch, a longtime music director at Everett’s First Baptist Church, was conducting for the last time a concert that’s an annual gift for local seniors.

“Thank you for your support and enthusiasm, and God bless everyone,” Sinkevitch, 80, told the overflow crowd at the end of Friday afternoon’s music program.

For nearly two hours before that, the robust man in the red sweater was the heart of the concert, titled “Angels Are Making Their Rounds.”

He led a combined chorale of singers from First Baptist, First Presbyterian, Central Lutheran and other Everett area churches. He played piano and sang, while raising a hand to conduct.

And at the pipe organ, he shared in a commanding duet with pianist Sung Joo Kim for one of his favorite hymns, “Like a River Glorious.” The stirring tour de force brought audience members to their feet.

“He loves music, and he loves what he does,” said Mary Ann Karber, a member of First Baptist Church, where Sinkevitch was music director for 22 years. He and his wife, Jan, now live at the Warm Beach Senior Community in Stanwood.

“I turned 80 this August, and still feel like I have some energy to donate. I’ve been 57 years in the church music ministry,” Sinkevitch said earlier this week.

He is ready to let others take over conducting the annual program at First Baptist. On Friday, Sinkevitch shared that role with Steven Torrence, music director at Everett’s First Presbyterian Church. Torrence also sang an “Ave Maria” solo.

Sinkevitch now lends his talents to a men’s chorus at Warm Beach. He said he convinced his fellow singers that their name — Warm Beach Men’s Chorus — “was kind of square.”

“Now we’re the Beachwood Boys,” he said. One building at the retirement center is called Beachwood. The Beachwood Boys sing at the retirement center’s worship services. Sinkevitch also is involved in music at the Warm Beach Free Methodist Church.

Those are the most recent musical chapters in a career that began on the East Coast.

Born in Peabody, Mass., in the Boston area, Sinkevitch went to Barrington College in Rhode Island. Sinkevitch focused on music at the Christian college, and met his wife there. His first church position was at First Baptist Church of North Adams, an American Baptist Church in western Massachusetts.

When the North Adams pastor was called to a church in Inglewood, Calif., Sinkevitch followed him there. Sinkevitch also enrolled at the University of Southern California, which had a Department of Church and Choral Music. There, he earned a master’s degree. Sinkevitch credits a USC professor, Charles Hirt, for fostering his music ministry career.

Sinkevitch came to First Baptist Church in Everett in 1969 and stayed until 1990. Beginning in 1972, he also got involved in a choir that supported the Everett Gospel Mission. Even after moving to Bellingham, Sinkevitch continued to conduct the Everett Gospel Mission Men’s Chorus, which raised thousands of dollars for the mission with annual Christmas and Easter concerts. His farewell concert with that chorus was in 2002.

Sinkevitch said music draws people to worship unlike anything else. “There is the Greek word, ‘ethos,’” he said. Its meanings include a person’s belief system, which influences character. “I call it spirit,” Sinkevitch said. “Music has ethos — the spirit that is in music.”

On Friday, every voice in the church joined Sinkevitch in singing his favorite carol, “Silent Night.”

“It is beauty and simplicity,” he said. “That’s kind of my criterion for choosing music — so it’s as simple as possible to sing.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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