That’s right. This is my choir director. My church choir director. And no, I didn’t say “praise band” or “worship team.” I said “choir.” We wear robes and everything.

I met Vic Varner about 7 and ½ years ago, when I went to see the choir at First Presbyterian here in Beaufort perform the Christmas portion of Handel’s ‘Messiah.’ Though my religious faith had long since lapsed, my passion for ‘Messiah’ had not – I grew up on Handel, thanks to my musically astute parents – and some friends had invited me to come hear them sing. Something radically changed for me that morning – or began to change, anyway, and is still changing – and when the performance was over, I marched myself into the choir room – mascara-streaked and trembling and barely clinging to my composure – and asked this stranger if I could join his choir. I was both exhilarated and mortified – I’d never done anything like this before, and I was freaking myself out – but I doubt Vic even remembers it. He said something matter-of-fact like, “Practice is every Wednesday from 7 – 8:30. Are you a soprano or an alto?”

I’ve been singing in the choir ever since, and it’s one of the great joys of my life. Vic makes us better than we ever imagined we could be, and he always keeps it fun. He took a brief hiatus to start the university choir at USCB, but he came back to us last summer with new energy, the same old sense of humor, and longer hair.

Everybody in town knows Vic. He was the choir director at Beaufort High for many illustrious years, still directs the USCB choir, and plays regular gigs – both solo and with his jazz ensemble – all around Beaufort and beyond. He’s a bit of a local celebrity, I suppose. To me, he’ll always be the guy who wasn’t fazed by the odd, overwrought woman with black smudges beneath her eyes who hadn’t set foot in a church in years but suddenly wanted – no, needed – to sing in his choir. He’s also the guy who taught me to raise my palate.

Vic and his ensemble are playing at the legendary Jazz Corner on Hilton Head August 8th and 9th, and that’s a pretty a big deal. They don’t let just anybody play there. They’ll be doing that cool Brazilian music he likes so much – the Girl from Ipanema, etc. – and if you’re lucky, he might even wear his white suit. For more information, call 842-8620.