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Diana Praeger Smittle

Diana Praeger Smittle

Sang in Oceanside (California) High School Honor Choir under Mr. Lambson 1965-1968, Oceanside, California

As I write my memories of Mr. Hairston, to this day his music had such an impact on me that, at the age of 65 now, I still find myself walking around the house humming or singing Mr. Hairston's passionate spirituals all the time. It was 1966 at Oceanside High School. Our choir director, Mr. Ray Lambson, had just announced that our choir would be joining other high school choirs in San Diego County to create a 1,000-voice choir, conducted by Jester Hairston. WOW, is the only word that describes how excited we all were to meet Mr. Hairston ! The ultimate one-time performance would be at my high school, AND they were actually cutting a record of our performance. All participating choirs rehearsed Mr. Hairston's inspired spirituals at their own schools, and we had only two rehearsals as a 1,000-voice choir with Mr. Hairston himself before our performance. Imagine the excitement of 1,000 teenagers, and the powerful leadership of Mr. Hairston to bring us all together for a successful performance. I fell in love with Negro Spirituals because of Mr. Hairston. Even though there was one more 1,000-voice choir the following year, I remember very little. Mr. Hairston touched my heart. I will always remember him, and I will continue humming/singing those wonderful songs.