A classical Christmas: St. Paul Lutheran features Indy’s Beecher Singers and baroque orchestra Sunday

To say that the Indianapolis-based Beecher Singers remain popular in Columbus is something of a bit of an understatement.

The 16-member professional chamber ensemble, performing a broad vocal range of genres, nearly has filled the 330-seat St. Paul Lutheran Church locally for free Christmas performances for five of the past 10 years as part of the church’s concert series.

And the group returns at 7 p.m. Sunday for its sixth consecutive holiday appearance at the church at 6045 E. State St., three miles south of Columbus. Several members of the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, plus harpist Jill Pitz, who has performed with nationally-touring artists such as Tony Bennett, will provide accompaniment along with Indianapolis organist John Allegar.

The concert is expected to stretch about 80 minutes. Michelle Louer, conductor of the Beecher Singers, offered a theory about the vocalists’ popularity both here and elsewhere.

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“I think the diversity of music that we present and also the quality of music that we present is part of that (popularity),” Louer said. “And, while we certainly have professional-caliber singers, they also approach it with a clear perspective of faith — and we consider this work as part of our outreach.”

She referred to the arts-related work and ministry at Indianapolis’ Second Presbyterian Church, where she serves as director of music and fine arts. Organist Allegar also comes from Second Presbyterian.

“This is just a great opportunity for St. Paul’s to present a high-quality concert for the community,” said John Sasse, St. Paul’s concert series organizer for the past decade and a lover of sacred music.

The series is significant since fewer area churches are presenting concerts beyond the pop-rock genre these days. Sasse is known in Columbus for his behind-the-scenes support of ensembles such as the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.

Besides local attendees, concertgoers also come from Bloomington, Seymour, Franklin and other surrounding areas, Sasse said.

The Beecher Singers, which perform a broad range of vocal chamber repertoire, has been recognized for its skilled interpretation of Baroque style and performance of new works alike. Through various outreach concerts, the ensemble offers myriad opportunities for listeners throughout the state “to experience God through music,” as organizers put it.

Sunday’s program will include the third cantata from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Other works include William Mathias’ “A Babe is Born” for organ and choir. Also included will be contemporary composer Abbie Betinis’ “Remember O Thou Man” song for harp and cello.

Harpist Pitz will begin a pre-concert recital at 6:40 p.m.

Louer mentioned that she and her Second Presbyterian cohorts love St. Paul’s acoustics and its organ. She also referred to St. Paul’s members as “a beautiful community of people.”

“We feel like it’s such a privilege to be there,” Louer said.

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Who: The Beecher Singers performing with several members of the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, organist John Allegar and harpist Jill Pitz. Michelle Louer will conduct the choral group. 

When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: St. Paul Lutheran Church, 6045 E. State St. three miles south of Columbus.

Admission: Free, as part of the church’s concert series launched in 2009.

Information: stpaulcolumbus.org

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