Alumnus Looks Back on Decades of Ministry in Song
Rev. George Haltiwanger gave his heart to Jesus as a youngster. From an early age, he has loved making music. Joining voices with other Baptist music and worship ministers, he has traveled the state and beyond.
Haltiwanger has been a part of the South Carolina Baptist Singing Churchmen for most of their existence, starting in 1973. Though now retired from full-time ministry, he continues to sing with the group, traveling to churches and other types of venues.
“We met together and sang for the State Convention. Then as we continued on we were having so much fun at that one occasion, Minister of Music R.D. Roberts invited us to sing a concert at his church, Shandon Baptist Church. So we got together and sang there and we invited our wives to join us, so we had a group of Singing Churchmen and Singing Churchwomen,” Haltiwanger recalled. “We’d have maybe 30 men on a good day from around the state. They would have 20 or so women who were able to make it. That went on for a number of years and we had a great time.”
At one point, Haltiwanger was named president of the Singing Churchmen and he continues to serve as treasurer. As musical worship has changed over the years, so have the Singing Churchmen, and Haltiwanger has seen a lot happen.
“It used to be more of a standup concert, especially in the seventies. As worship in most of our Baptist churches has changed, so has the music that we present. We added the instrumental group and orchestra as such. We usually don’t have as many string players,” Haltiwanger said. “We’ve got a very talented group of men who play multiple instruments from the classic brass instrumentation to our percussion.”
In its more than 60 years of existence, the Singing Churchmen have presented concerts in churches, but also in prisons, malls, markets and on the street, as well as for the Southern Baptist Music Conference, Church Music Leadership Week and for the American Choral Directors Association. The Singing Churchmen have also given concerts in other parts of the nation and overseas. The group is supported by free will offerings.
Haltiwanger is pictured second from left on the first row standing at a Singing Churchmen Concert. (South Carolina Baptist Convention photo)
Haltiwanger also auditioned for the Centurymen, the Southern Baptist Convention’s 100-voice male chorus, in 1982 and sang with them until they disbanded in 2022. During the Centurymen’s more than 50 years of existence, the group traveled as far as China.
“It was getting harder and harder these last few years because churches aren’t hiring full time musicians like they did, especially those who loved choral work,” Haltiwanger said.
It seems that music has always been a part of Haltiwanger’s life, going back to the days he attended a mill church in Anderson as a child. Haltiwanger accepted Christ as his savior at age eight, and at 16 felt God’s calling into full time ministry. After attending Anderson area schools, Haltiwanger came to Anderson University in 1965.
“One of my friends went to Anderson College, so I checked them out and they offered me a nice scholarship which was essential for my parents. My freshman year I was a commuting student, but I was very involved,” said Haltiwanger, noting that he was named freshman class president and also had jobs on campus, working in the cafeteria and the music library.
“After being elected Student Body President the next year, the college president came up to me and said ‘you need to stay on campus,’ and so they made arrangements. I was already on a work scholarship and so I stayed on campus,” he said.
Haltiwanger went on to earn degrees in music from Carson Newman and the University of South Carolina. A veteran, he joined the U.S. Army, serving a tour in Vietnam. When he returned, Haltiwanger was stationed at Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he put his musical skills to work.
“I got to talking with one of the special services officers there and was asking if there were musical opportunities. Of course they had the band, but they were full. I asked ‘do they have a choir?’ They said ‘we do not have a men's soldiers chorus.’ So we organized the Fourth Division Soldiers Chorus. Our nickname was the GI (government issue) chorus,” he said. Haltiwanger also served as a minister of music and youth at First Southern Baptist church in Colorado Springs.
After leaving the Army, Haltiwanger returned to South Carolina, where he served Southern Baptist churches in Anderson, Honea Path, West Columbia and Moncks Corner. After 30 years of service to First Baptist Church in Moncks Corner, Haltiwanger retired. Since retirement, he and his wife Susan have lived in Greenwood, South Carolina. Haltiwanger has continued to minister part time in churches across the Upstate.
Information about the South Carolina Baptist Singing Churchmen and a concert schedule can be found online at www.singingchurchmen.com.