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May 8, 2000 GC-032

Ohio choirs perform to packed Severance Hall

CLEVELAND (UMNS) – Youthful talent and energy met enthusiastic appreciation at a concert given May 7 for United Methodists resting at the midpoint of the church’s 11-day legislative assembly.

The performance of musicians from five United Methodist-related colleges in Ohio lived up to the historic reputation of Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra. The elegant hall, built in the 1920s, had recently returned to service after being closed for a $35 million renovation. About 2,500 people packed the hall for the concert.

United Methodists are meeting in Cleveland through May 12 for their General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body.

The church’s East Ohio Annual (regional) Conference hosted the "Five Star Gala," which featured music by students from Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea; Mount Union College, Alliance; Ohio Northern University, Ada; Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware; and Otterbein College, Westerville.

The event also featured world-renowned conductor Robert Page, the music director of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, who was the assistant conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra from 1971 to 1989. He and Jared Cross, a boy soprano, participated in the performance of "Chichester Psalms" by the late Leonard Bernstein.

Based on parts of six psalms, this finale also featured the Baldwin-Wallace College Choir, Mount Union College Choir, Ohio Northern University Singers and Otterbein College Vocal Ensemble, along with instrumentalists from Baldwin-Wallace College and a harpist from Ohio Northern.

More than 100 singers, 14 instrumentalists, two huge harps and other musical equipment filled the stage as the performers concluded the program with words based on Psalm 133, verse 1: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is, for the brethren to dwell together in unity."

The audience gave the performers a standing ovation at the end of the last composition and continued clapping as the musicians took several bows and were joined by the conductors of the college music groups.

The earlier performances by individual groups from the colleges were an eclectic mixture. Some were pure fun, like Duke Ellington’s "Rockin’ in Rhythm," performed by the Park Avenue Jazz, an instrumental ensemble from Ohio Wesleyan University. Other pieces, such as "Jubilate" and "God of Our Fathers" performed by the Otterbein College Wind Ensemble, were sacred music.

The Mount Union Choir opened the program with "Wake, Awake" and "Crucifixus II," but it was their third piece that drew chuckles from the audience at one point. They were singing "The Farewell Overture," which features goodbyes in a variety of languages, when a soprano in the group spoke above the song, calling out, "Y’all come back now, you hear."

For "Swing Dancin’," arranged by K. Shaw, the Ohio Northern show choir sang and jitterbugged simultaneously – a difficult feat. They began "He Lives in You" on their knees, and closed their portion of the program, still singing and dancing, with "One World, One Voice, One Song," which said in part, "We are the music. We are the world. We are the joyful noise!"

Students of the musical theater program at Baldwin-Wallace brought the music and drama of Leonard Bernstein’s "West Side Story" to the stage. As the Jets and Sharks planned a rumble, Tony and Maria sang of love in "Tonight."

Cleveland politician George L. Forbes, a member of Werner United Methodist Church, was master of ceremonies for the evening. A graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College, Forbes was a co-founder of Cleveland’s first black-owned law firm. He has received many awards, including the Trailblazer Award from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow/PUSH conference in 1999 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Crusader of the Year Award in 1989.

Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference, and Kenneth W. Chalker, chairman of the conference host committee, welcomed the delegates. Keaton was introduced by event coordinator Sandra W. Lutz of North Canton, Ohio. The program was dedicated to Bishop Edwin C. Boulton, the former resident bishop who retired in 1996.

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-- Joretta Purdue

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