It’s not often a gathering that begins in church is highlighted by a dinner and birthday celebration in a nearby restaurant. But that was the plan for famed musician and Grammy-winning choir director Fletcher Wolfe here Friday night.

When the esteemed maestro visits his hometown of Norlina, guests are in for a special evening, and this visit was possibly the most special.

Fletcher gathered about 20 of his close Norlina and Warrenton friends and relatives at the historic Emmanuel Episcopal Church on North Main Street in Warrenton. After a social hour in the fellowship hall, which included a violin and piano duet, the group moved into the sanctuary for a short service.

The Rev. Ted Malone, longtime vicar of the church, read the scripture. With organ virtuoso Angie Jenkins of Highlands at the keyboard, the group sang two classic hymns, directed by the maestro. The room was electrified by the talent of the guests, including world famous opera star Irene Weldon, like Fletcher a Norlina High School graduate.

The guests then made the short walk to George’s Restaurant, where another surprise was planned. Fletcher not only was the host for the party, but served as the emcee forthe event. He reminisced about his days in Norlina and Warrenton and a friendship with the great pianist and Warrenton native Tasker Polk. 

Fletcher recalled receiving a call from Tasker when both were in France with renowned actress Betty Hutton. Tasker asked Fletcher to “meet me in Morocco” to sing in a concert. Fletcher then shared his “pig painting” story, which had his guests laughing.

After introducing the guests, Fletcher introduced fellow nonagenarians Lou Traylor and Esther Delbridge. Lou celebrated her 95thbirthday this year, and the surprise was for Esther, who is celebrating her 96thbirthday now.

Fletcher brought Esther up, and the group sang the traditional song, then enjoyed a special birthday cake for her.

Fletcher was accompanied by Angie and his executive assistant, Casey Anglin, also from Highlands. Memories are priceless and this was one of those evenings.