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Local church headed to hallowed ground

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Shirley Kreutzjans’ remembers wisdom from Catholic nuns during her elementary school years.

“They always taught us that music was a form of prayer,” Kreutzjans said.

If so, then Columbus’ Kreutzjans and 17 friends and associates will offer quite a serious supplication on one of the world’s best-known stages June 29. A combined choir from the local St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, where Kreutzjans sings, and Columbus’ Fairlawn Presbyterian Church will perform with about 100 other choir members from Indiana, Missouri and New Jersey as one ensemble at New York City’s 2,804-seat Carnegie Hall.

The vocalists will perform under noted British choral conductor John Rutter. They will sing Rutter’s “Mass of the Children,” which the local choir combo last performed at St. Bartholomew in May. The opportunity in the Big Apple surfaced through a former college associate of Bogdan Minut, St. Bartholomew’s director of music ministry.

Less than a month from his group’s big moment, he’s still studying a video of their May performance, and tweaking elements.

“You’re constantly striving to improve,” Minut said, adding that such an idea is one reason he was attracted to the Carnegie trip that includes three days of rehearsing with Rutter. “So, from my perspective, we’re never quite fully ready.”

Kreutzjans, a 12-year choir member, said she feels no real pressure and is determined to enjoy every aspect of the trip. She acknowledged that she will be driving in her car when elements of the Rutter piece’s second movement, “Gloria,” will pop into her head.

She laughed when asked how it makes her feel.

“Well,” she said slowly, “glorious.”

Soprano choir member Camilla Gehring, a professional soloist and voice teacher, has sung plenty of Rutter’s work in the past. Plus, she’s been to Carnegie before — to watch her then-young son perform with the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir, which she serves as assistant director.

“But it’s certainly not every day you get to sing at Carnegie Hall,” Gehring said.

She, like Kreutzjans, finds her head full of Rutter’s melodies occasionally.

“I especially like the way he mixes traditional liturgical texts with his own or others’ texts,” Gehring said.

She mentioned that, because of her work with the local children’s choir, she will pay close attention to how Rutter incorporates a small children’s ensemble into their mix.

Minut has studied much of Rutter’s work since his college days at Bowling Green State University and Ball State University.

“The music that he writes is just so singable,” said Minut. “It’s usually a joy for vocalists to present. The harmonies that result are just beautiful. I know that people accuse him of writing deceptively simple and cheesey music. But music doesn’t have to be particularly complex to be good.”

The local group looks forward to more than unity on the stage. They hope to spend time together visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral, seeing a Broadway play, taking a cruise on the Hudson River, and enjoying other sights and sounds of the city.

Beyond that, Minut wants choir members to see one thing more — what they can become, through inspiration and perspiration.

“We want them to step up to the next level and realize that they can do so much more (as singers),” Minut said.

He feels Rutter can help make that happen. He feels that’s important because he sees sacred music as a way of sending praise heavenward.

“I think,” Minut said, “that this opportunity is God-sent.”

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