Bob Cox: Half a century of Christmas Cantatas

  This Christmas season is a milestone in Bobby “Bob” Cox’s life. It marks 50 years of singing in a church choir and 50 years of performing and/or directing Christmas Cantatas and concerts – well over half of his age of 79. 

 It also marks the 25th year for the St. Elmo resident to perform in and/or direct the 25th Annual FACE (Fine Arts, County of Effingham) Christmas Concert. And judging by his enthusiasm, talent and youthful appearance, this year is only just an incidental milestone, not a goal reached. 

   Bob Cox and his late wife, Jeanne, have contributed much to this area’s musical enrichment and to Effingham’s FACE, which Jeanne Cox began 25 years ago, and with which her husband has continued. 

   His love of music began early.  “I was in high school chorus and also played trombone in the high school band and took piano lessons from Mrs. Olsen for years,” he said.  “I had graduated from St. Elmo. We had lived in Cowden until I was in the sixth grade. In the summer of 1942, we couldn’t get gas or tires for dad to drive to work at Marchman’s, so we moved to St. Elmo. So I went to sixth and seventh grades and high school here.”

He graduated from Eastern Illinois University, then served in Korea.  “I was in the Signal Corp,” he said,  “because I did well in the dot-dash testing. I tried to get into music for two years (in the service; I had a degree in music, but it was the same old story – ’It’s too late now, try when you get to the next station’.” 

He wanted to play in the band, but it never worked out, although there seemed to be a shortage of trombone players. 

    “So I stayed in the Signal Corp and worked in the receiving station for the underground pentagon,” he said. 

“After my tour of duty in Korea, Jeanne and I were married,” he said. 

After his discharge from the service, they went to Iowa City to continue their education in music and get their masters degrees.

Cox got a teaching position as band director in Martinsville. 

“I had two high school choruses, high school band, junior-high band, beginning band students, and also two rural schools I had to drive to. It’s a good thing I was young and stupid,” he said laughing. “But there was so much talent in that town. They had a lot of talent, but there hadn’t been anyone there to give them a chance to do it. I think I had seven or eight students that went on in music,” 

   Cox taught in Martinsville for three years, “Then the job opened up here, in St. Elmo,” and he returned to St. Elmo with Jeanne, which brought the preacher knocking at their door.

                                    

 

The milestone began…

 

 “When Jeanne and I moved here in 1958, the Methodist preacher came knocking at our door and wanted Jeanne to direct the church choir.  Jeanne had taught elementary and high school in Sullivan before we got married, and she taught in Martinsville. She was a great piano player and she taught both elementary and high school and retired in 1978,” he said. “So Jeanne directed the choir and I sang in the choir. I was also her librarian and took care of the music for her and organized for rehearsals. She died in 2001.”

Bob stepped in to continue Jeanne’s work as director of the church choir until Randy Imig came and then Cox remained to just sing in the choir. 

He also continued with another of Jeanne’s contributions to the public, FACE (Fine Arts County of Effingham) a Christmas Choir she began in Effingham in the early ‘80s. The Annual FACE Christmas Concert is a free event, which was held Sunday at the Cornerstone Christian Church in Effingham. The concert features the FACE Community Singers, directed by Bob Cox and the FACE Orchestra. 

He served as president for 25 years, serves now as a member of the board, still sings and directs the face choir. He prefers the traditional Christmas songs, “but once in a while, we do a pop song,” he said. FACE also performs in Hendelmeyer. 

His future plans include continuing with FACE. They usually do three plays a year,  They helped the Art Guild get started, they give scholarships to high school students, and a $500 college scholarship. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun,” he said.

                    

 

His Christmas Spirit -alive at home and with family

 

A very tall, lighted Christmas tree stands in his living room, decorated prettily with ornaments acquired over the years. Although busy, especially during Christmas time, he spends time with his children and grandchildren. 

 He spent Thanksgiving with family in their home and the family will come to his home for Christmas. 

As his home, with its pianos, musical bells, clock and  art works reflect his love of music, so does his singing and directing of choirs reflect his heart with its love and reverence for his Creator and for mankind. Truly, the Christmas Spirit manifested in 50 years of music. 

Leave a Comment