has an 'angelic voice'
Before Bill McMurray
finished the first few bars of the congregational hymn, heads were turning.
...Opera singer Bill McMurray, a member of the Highland Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, has traveled the United States to perform.
The members of Highland Presbyterian Church
had a professional opera singer in their midst.
"Even if I sing at half volume," McMurray
said, "somebody's going to hear me."
To make her point, Purdie marched McMurray
the next Sunday morning to see the church music director.
Two Sundays after McMurray
picked a Presbyterian church out of the Yellow Pages, he
wore a Highland choir robe.
They have only known McMurray
since June, but in three months, he
has become an unexpected fixture at Highland.
...What: Bill McMurray in concert
is black.And at 6 feet 3 inches tall, he
literally stands out.
"It doesn't bother me," he
said."We're all here to worship God."
And besides, he
added with a grin, opera singers like attention.
"I know I'm somewhat of an enigma."
Highland members were most surprised to learn that McMurray
grew up in Fayetteville.His
father, a retired Air Force master sergeant, works as an electrical engineer.His
mother is a customer service manager at Wal-Mart
and Carolyn McMurray live in Arran Lake.
Growing up, McMurray
sang in church and school choirs.
Four years in a row, he
performed with the North Carolina Honors Chorus.But he
did not realize he
had a special talent for singing until a teacher at Albritton Junior High
told him so. After graduating from South View High School, McMurray studied music at East Carolina University and performed in his first opera.He thought he would become a music teacher. He was working as a substitute when he received the first call from an opera company.
Since then, he
has performed with companies all over the country, from New Hampshire to Colorado.He
is negotiating now with his
10th opera company.
Opera singers rarely stay in one place.They usually follow certain roles.McMurray's new job in Chicago will only last six weeks.
After that, he
goes to the next one.It is a lot of moving around, but living out of a suitcase does not seem to bother McMurray
gravitates to opera.
"That's what exciting to me," he
said, "I get to be someone else."
Between singing jobs or when one falls through, like it did this summer, he
comes home to Fayetteville. He
looks for a church, usually a Presbyterian one.A large sanctuary helps. McMurray
may quietly slip into a pew and let loose with that deep rich voice.