Choir holds reunion, honors founder

The Ohio Valley Choir 47-year reunion was hosted by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Steubenville on Aug. 24-25, an occasion to honor its founder, the Rev. James N. Demitras, who was presented an icon of St. Romanos, the patron saint of choirs.

The choir was established in 1966 through the efforts of Demitras, Holy Trinity’s pastor, with the cooperation of the area priests and their choir directors.

It blended voices from church choirs in Martins Ferry, Steubenville, Weirton and Wheeling to represent the Greek Orthodox church at special services. Dr. George M. Saribalas served as director with Janie Sandru as organist. The four area choir directors – Thalia Giannaris of Martins Ferry, Erma Evangelinos Rangos of Steubenville, Foteine Angelos Sklavos of Weirton and George Varlas of Wheeling – all served as assistant directors and librarians. The four area priests served as advisers.

Among the choir’s highlights were presenting Christmas and Easter programs on WSTV and WTRF television; singing in the four communities represented, including the Hierarchical Liturgy in Weirton for Archbishop Iakovos’ visit; traveling to Massillon to sing for a wedding; and competing in 1968 in the choir convention talent show.

The Ohio Valley Choir enjoyed three memorable years, according to a news release, coming to an end in September 1969 when Saribalas moved to Logan, Ohio, having accepted another superintendent position.

Though the choir no longer rehearsed, the fellowship that was shared was not forgotten.

In 1988, through the efforts of Rangos and Saribalas, a reunion of the choir was held in Steubenville. “At that time, several people expressed their desire to sing with us so it was decided to open the OV Choir for new membership. Many of the charter members are still very active,” noted member Mary McElhaney.

Subsequent reunions were held in 1992 for the National Chian Convention held at Oglebay Park; 1993 in Columbus; and in 1994 when a rehearsal was held at St. John the Divine in Wheeling in preparation for a combined Columbus and Ohio Valley choir to sing in Steubenville.

“Though this was postponed until later, another reunion of the OVC was held in Steubenville in 1995. In 1996, the combined OV Choir and Columbus Choir finally took place as planned in Steubenville,” McElhaney said. Other reunions followed in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2005.

“Without a doubt, the mission that Father James had in mind when he summoned us all together to begin this glorious journey of devotion in song for our churches and for ourselves under the banner of the Ohio Valley Greek Orthodox Church Choir has surpassed his expectations and for that we are grateful,” she said.