Sharing the music

A new fundraising committee is helping Burbank First United Methodist Church play a more active role in the arts.

The Friends of Music was established last spring and began offering midday concerts once a month, which has gained strong support from the community, said T.J. Harper, director of music ministries.

This year, the programs have varied from performances by the church’s Chancel Choir to recitals by pianists and a Baroque soprano soloist during the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, Harper said.

“We want to maintain a variety and offer not just choral music but hope to bring in professional musicians from the Glendale and Burbank areas,” he said.

Admission is free, but a freewill offering is accepted, Harper said, and both the church community and the public have supported the concerts.

Through donations and membership fees, the Friends of Music group has raised $10,000 since September, which has created an operational budget, Harper said. Now with funds available, the Friends of Music has hired a 20-piece orchestra to accompany the Chancel Choir in the annual Spring Concert on April 20. It will be a tribute concert to Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Joseph Haydn.

The Chancel Choir has provided musical leadership during Sunday morning worship services since the 1950s, Harper said. They sing the anthem, which is the featured musical piece played during a service, and accompany the rest of the congregation on hymns.

“The orchestra legitimizes and adds weight to all the hard work they do every single week,” Harper said of the choir.

For Glendale resident Bob Tomlin, the opportunity to sing with an orchestra is one that he welcomes.

“I have sung with several church choirs that had an orchestra with it,” the 85-year-old said. “In some ways, it’s a lot easier. They usually carry the accompaniment and they, along with the director, set the tempo.”

Tomlin,who’s been singing for more than 60 years, isn’t ready to give it up any time soon. He is one of about 25 members in the choir.

“I’m probably the oldest member in the choir,” Tomlin, 85, said. “It’s rather interesting and it gives me a new look on life.”

Tomlin, a retired postal worker, joined the choir two years ago. He’s been singing since he was in seventh grade. He’s with choral groups, a cappella choirs, church choirs and even joined a quartet when he was in the Army during World War II.

“I do it for the pure enjoyment,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin and the choir’s members have been attending rehearsals regularly in preparation for the upcoming concert.

The first work celebrates the 275th anniversary of Bach’s composition of “Tonet ihr Pauken! Erschallet Trompeten!” The choir will perform Haydn’s “Heiligmesse” to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the composer’s last performance as conductor in 1808.

Singing with an orchestra will embellish the choir’s performance, said Burbank resident Tania Batson, whose credits include performing solos with the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

“Once you add all the instruments, it’s like being in a full-color movie,” Batson, 44, said. “You hear the wind instruments, brass and drums. It takes it up a notch.”

Batson, one of seven sopranos in the choir, has been singing with the choir for four years.

“The great thing about choral music is that you check your ego at the door and you work as a unit to bring it together, Batson, said. “These people do it because they love the music and it’s really fun for them to sing with an orchestra.”

The best part about giving a concert at the church is that there are no bad seats, Batson said, adding that attendees have the opportunity to hear the music sung in sacred space, or the sanctuary.

“It’s not going to be in a concert hall where you can’t feel the music or you can’t see anybody singing,” Batson said. “Wherever you are sitting, you can feel the timpani playing. It’s very intimate and exciting to hear live music.”

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