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The Newberry Observer

Jefcoat goes solo, moves practice to Main Street building

Special to the Observer

Friday, April 1, 2005

Local attorney Samuel H. Jefcoat proudly announces the opening of his own law office in Newberry. Located at 1501 Main Street, Newberry, in the historic Lominick's Drugstore building, this office opened on April 1, 2005. The telephone number at the new location is 321-2321, and the e-mail address is

Having been in practice for over eleven years in Newberry, Jefcoat will continue his customary areas of practice, including Real Estate, Probate and Estate Planning, Business Law, Family Law, and Social Security Disability. In addition, he is adding Bankruptcy Law in his new practice. Accompanying Jefcoat on his move into a solo practice is his legal assistant of many years, Jodi Hudnall.

When asked the reason for embarking on his own, Jefcoat gave the following account: "Blame it on a mid-life wakeup call. Last year, I was honored to give the commencement address at Mid Carolina High School, having graduated from there twenty years ago. In my speech, I made a statement regarding the graduates needing to take care of themselves, because they would be knocking on the door of forty before they knew it. As luck would have it, the very next day, I was in an automobile accident which resulted in my having to have shoulder surgery and months of rehabilitation. These events made me realize I was not getting any younger, and if I were ever going to pursue my dream of being in a practice of my own, I had better get moving.

"Once I made up my mind, I started looking at rental properties. I took one look at this great old drugstore building and fell in love with it. After that, six weeks of incredibly hard work by contractors and family - most of all my wife Pamela, who is my decorator and painter - have turned this building into a beautiful office. I feel blessed and am very grateful."

Also a semi-professional singer, Jefcoat has been a member of the Columbia-based Palmetto Mastersingers for over fifteen years. As a member of that group, Jefcoat has performed throughout the United States and in eight European countries, at such venues as St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and Smolny Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. He has entertained on two different occasions at the White House. Locally, he has appeared in three productions of the Newberry Opera Company/South Carolina Opera. He is also a member and regular soloist with the choir at St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Chapin.

Jefcoat and his wife Pamela live in Little Mountain, as do their family of four-legged critters including three horses, too many cats to count, and a beloved Black Lab named Elliott. (Visitors at the new office will probably have the opportunity to meet Elliott, who has been known to roam the office looking for treats.)

The State

Do They Have A Prayer of Meeting Solzhenitsyn?

By T.D. Mobley-Martinez, Staff Writer, "The State"

Saturday, May 1, 2004

On the face of it, it's a pretty uncomplicated story. The Palmetto Mastersingers, a local all-male chorus, commissioned a choral work based on an Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn prayer. "A Simple Prayer:--composed by a Mastersingers' favorite, Dallas composer Randol Alan Bass-will debut tonight when the 90-some group returns to the Koger Center for its spring concert.

And here's the topper: If all the legwork pans out, the group will perform it for Solzhenitsyn himself when they tour Russia on June 11-23.

Like all good stories, though, there's a little more to it than that. It's a story, first, of hardship, then of happenstance and finally, of friendship.

Friends Now

So they go to talking: Boyd Saunders, 67, and Sam Jefcoat, 38, have a lot of time to talk as they drive the roughly 50 miles back and forth from Mastersingers' weekly rehearsals. Saunders, an artist, has been a member of the group for 18 years; Jefcoat, a lawyer, for 17.

On a late afternoon in January 2003, they kicked around possible destinations for the group's trip the following year. Russia was being considered. So the artist mentioned Solzhenitsyn and a print he had made in 1972.

The piece, he explained to Jefcoat, was inspired by a Solzhenitsyn prayer Saunders had happened to see-believe it or not-in a Christmas issue of Vogue. (Saunders was already a fan of the dissident's bleak stories.) The finished print paired Saunders' portrait of Solzhenitsyn with the short prayer. Then he tucked it away, almost forgetting about it.

Until last year, when he showed the print to Jefcoat, who was then president of the group. The lawyer-who describes the print as "haunting"-took it to Bass.

"A Simple Prayer"-part a cappella, part piano accompaniment-wascompleted about a month ago.

Sitting in a comfortable chair in his folksy studio, Saunders pulls off his oversized glasses to read from the untitled prayer-his Tennessee drawl making the words sweeter. " '. . I am astonished by the path through despair you have provided me.' "

He shakes his head slowly.

"God, I love that phrase. I get choked up, even now, reading it."

Saunders eyesight, already failing from a brain tumor, became the casualty of a bad drug reaction a few years ago. That's why Jefcoat, who lives in Little Mountain, and works in Newberry, picks up Saunders, who lives in Chapin, on his way to rehearsal.

"I've know him for 25, almost 30 years," says Jefcoat, a lawyer who does estate planning and probate work. As on most Tuesdays, he's still dressed in the suit and tie he wore to work.

"I didn't know him really until we started driving together. Now we're friends."

If it's an unlikely friendship in the world at large, it's par for the course in the Mastersingers. The membership, mostly 50-ish professionals, leave work early and delay their dinners for music described as "Bach to Beatles, Mozart to Motown"-and the rare camaraderie. None is paid. (About half of the group's $100,000 annual budget goes to three salaried positions: director, accompanist and business manager.) Member costs run about $250 a year-not including any big trips.

"It's a real cross-section," says Walter Cuttino, director of the group since 1999 and soon-to-be chairman of USC's voice department. "And when the chips are down, this is an incredible network of support. It doesn't matter who it is."

Today, Saunders' eyes are better. "I'm making art," says the legendary professor of printmaking at USC (he retired after 30 years in 2001) and Verner award winner.

Better, but not good enough for him to drive anywhere alone. So the drives continue, the talk sometimes turning to the men's hopes for "A Simple Prayer."

"We made contact with Solzhenitsyn's son," Jefcoat says. "Our understanding is. . .well, he's in his 80s and his health is not good. Wasn't there a rumored stroke?"

Saunders nods and says, "Besides being a recluse."

"We're trying to set something up to meet him and pay him tribute," Jefcoat says.

"And give him the print," adds Saunders, a tall, square man of sometimes profane wit.

"Yes, and give him the print," Jefcoat says, smiling.

The Sound of Prayer

The voices-the kind of molten mahogany of old pipe organs-rise from the practice room at the First Baptist Church.

It's just "The Star-Spangled Banner," but the Mastersingers tease out all the tenderness and heartbreaking pride the Francis Scott Key tune has to give.

Another song (a hymn). And another (a folk tune). And another (a spiritual). On this evening, director Cuttino is trying to get through the repertoire for tonight's concert of American composers-and by extension, pieces of their performance tour of Russia.

Three performances are spread across St. Petersburg and Moscow: two Masses and a mixed program in a deconsecrated church. More are expected but not nailed down because, Cuttino says, "This is Russia."

About 20 are taking the trip, which will cost each about $2,700 (a visa into Russia, for instance, costs $120)-more if they take someone. In other years they toured France and Germany, played Vienna, Rome and other legendary music cities. The trips, Jefcoat says, are as much about keeping the members engaged as they are about making appearances in exotic locales.

Another song, this time Aaron Copland's "Zion's Walls."

"On this one, " Cuttino tells the group," think American."

Then, just before the break, they try, "A Simple Prayer, "which swoops and turns a powerful Gordian knot of lyrics and melody. And still, it's a hushed, surprisingly personal piece, like a barely whispered wish from man to God.

From the heights of worldly glory, I am astonished by the path through despair you have provided me-this path from which I have been worthy enough to reflect your radiance to man.

When it's finished, you feel it.

"I was thinking if I was asked to compose a prayer, what would it sound like," says Saunders, who learned to play the piano from his mother. He smiles. "Now, I know."

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