August 29, 2002
It all started when she was recruited to conduct the Christmas Cantata in 1968. The church's regular music director had made an unexpected departure. That temporary commitment ended this past Sunday, 34 years later.
Lois Bayne and her music have been so intertwined with Wesley United Methodist Church and its congregation that some of the members of today's chancel choir started as a part of her children's choir.
"I was 12 years old and singing in the children's choir when she came. I'm now in my mid-40s. I've know her the entire time she's been here. She is my mentor. I look at Lois when I sing," said Fran West, a member of the chancel choir and lifelong member of the congregation.
David Sneddon, another choir member and the church's Music Committee chair, echoed that admiration. "Lois Bayne is the main reason I'm singing again. I've been singing for her for 12 years. I hadn't sung for 30 years before Lois," he said.
After having been a part of various choral groups throughout his youth and early adulthood, Sneddon explained he stopped singing when he became too busy in his profession and as the father of six children.
"One day she said that I should start singing again, that I had a very good voice. It just needed some work. That's when she began giving me free training. Today I am the baritone soloist for the church choir," he said.
IDA LOIS BAYNE, now 80, began her musical life journey as a youth in her native Ogden, Utah, at 16. "I sang with the local choir there. I knew from the time I was a little girl that I wanted to sing," Bayne said.
In the 1950s, she went to Wiesbaden and Frankfurt, Germany, to study music and sang in operas throughout Europe. One of those performances included "The King and I," staged for U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in Europe. But that operatic career ceased when she married a U.S. Air Force officer, she explained.
Bayne first came to Northern Virginia and joined Wesley as its choir director, when her husband was stationed in this area. In the 1970s, she made two appearances with the U.S. Air Force Symphony in Washington. She also traveled back to Germany several times during her husband's military career.
But even as the church's music director, Bayne held down another full-time career. "I worked at the Pentagon in the Department of the Army for a number of generals who were associated with the Army's Review Board," she said. "I retired from there in the 1980s."
In her trips to and from Europe, Bayne also acknowledged she "worked off and on for the government." Today her son, Mack, works at the White House in computer operations. Her daughter, Saisia, lives with her at their home on Buckner Road.
DURING HER 34-year tenure at Wesley United Methodist Church, located at 8412 Richmond Ave., in Fairfax County's Mount Vernon District, Lois Bayne has increased the size and revitalized both the chancel and children's choirs, initiated the handbell choir, and directed the cantatas.
"I set up the music program because they had a very small choir," she related. It now has 33 voices. "Then we started the handbell choir and worked with the children's choir to build it to where it is today."
Jack Hopkins, a former member of the chancel choir and now a resident of Westminster at Lake Ridge, recalled, "She had the best voice in the choir. But she wouldn't sing because she didn't think her voice was at its best."
Hopkins was there when Bayne first assumed the role of music director. "She has managed to get very consonant sounds out of that body of singers. She directs with great vigor. One time she even lost her hair piece by putting too much vigor into her directing," he humorously recalled.
One of the church's main appeals to Bayne has been that "Wesley has been a church that has had a lot of military people come and go. We just lost one man who's moving to New England to take over his own submarine command," she said.
"I have made great many friends over the years. We've also been very lucky to have a very balanced choir, with both female and male voices, throughout all this transition," Bayne pointed out.
But her success was not attributed to luck by the church's pastor, the Rev. Teresa Smith. "Lois Bayne has been a tradition of excellence for music at the church. And she has been able to walk through a series of challenges in life with great dignity," said Smith.
WHEN ASKED WHAT she had planned for the future, Bayne admitted to not being quite sure. "I have two grandchildren, and I do know I want to spend more quality time with them," she said.
On Sept. 8, the 300-member church will pay special tribute to Ida Lois Bayne and her contributions to its congregations over several generations, both musical and personal. In a letter to church members announcing the "Very Special Celebration," it was noted: "Under Lois' able direction, music has been and continues to be one of the central ministries of Wesley. ... Her poise and presence, creativity and inspiration, motivation and teaching have led us to new heights in our praise of God, and love for one another and the world."