In the summer of 1934, nine men began a singing group to perform live on Central Pennsylvania’s WKOK radio in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The men’s chorus format was a fixture in many communities and churches of the time. Rev. A. J. Buffenmyer, of the Bunkertown Church of the Brethren, was a regular fixture on the station with his “Church of the Air” segment at 8:00 AM Sunday Morning. The chorus likely accompanied him during this time slot. Roy Ferster was the original director, with Thelma Leister at the piano. First tenors were Merrill Gingrich and Raymond Snyder; second tenors were Menno Glick and David Shellenberger; baritones were Edward Strawser and Paul Page; while the basses rounding out the double quartet were Clay Dressler and Earl Strawser. It was originally known as the Juniata Male Chorus. As the group grew, the men’s original home church—Bunkertown Brethren—lent its moniker to the chorus, which was alternately called the Bunkertown Male Chorus or Bunkertown Men’s Chorus. Many men from throughout Juniata County communities such as McAlisterville, Bunkertown, Cocolamus, Evendale, Thompsontown, Mifflintown, East Salem, Richfield and even Freeburg, in Snyder County, sang with group.
The original pianist, Thelma Leister (later Fogleman), was just 12 years old. Remarkably, she is pictured, below, with the Chorus some 80 plus years after helping to start this ministry.
Through the 20th Century, there were many local men’s chorus groups. Some of the others that were still singing as recently as the beginning of the new millennium were the Alfarata Men’s Chorus, the Big Valley Men’s Chorus, Penns Valley Chorus, and the Susquehanna Valley Chorus. The Bunkertown Men’s Chorus is the sole remaining men’s gospel quartet group in Central Pennsylvania. The music style, different from barbershop quartet music and more akin to Southern gospel, was immensely popular, both on the radio and in local churches, in the early part of the previous century.
Today the Bunkertown Men’s Chorus provides musical programs throughout Central PA to churches, camp meetings, nursing homes, social gatherings, and other events, using many of the same songs that we have been singing since our inception. Click here to read more about the current ministry of the Chorus, especially if you might be interesting in joining us! Over the years, more than 150 men have sung with the Chorus. Learn more about the singers on this page.
The four-part quartet-style Gospel music harkens back to a bygone era. Music is from Stamps-Baxter, Robert Coleman, Mosie Lister, and more.
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While you are here, explore the website to learn more about the Bunkertown Men’s Chorus as we head into our 90th season of sharing the gospel in song. The following links will take you to newspaper articles throughout the years, recordings of the Chorus performing before live audiences, and photos of the group, including a brighter, clearer copy of the one that is used for the site header at the top of this page.