Tag Archives: First Lutheran Church

Jazz band, choir among performers scheduled at Grand Halle

Submitted photo
Members of Johnstown Christian School’s Handbell Choir, pictured above, are to soon perform at The Grand Halle.

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

This month’s Tuesday Noon Recital Series at First Lutheran Church features performances by a jazz band, a handbell choir, a St. Vincent College student and the founder of the series itself.

“We’re somewhat amazed and certainly grateful to come up with such good lineups,” said George Fattman, chairman of the Tuesday Noon Recital Task Force. “The April group has a couple dozen talented young people, plus a well-regarded veteran, Kim Rauch.”

The series commences April 4 with a performance by Greater Johnstown High School’s jazz band. The band is to perform selections from its upcoming concert, “A Night at the Movies!” This show is under the direction of Eric Pfeil.

“We had the jazz band a couple years ago, and people loved the enthusiasm of the young musicians,” Fattman said. “Their current director, Eric Pfeil, scheduled this a year ago.

“They rarely play in a venue outside the school district, so they regard this as something special. I don’t know who likes the program more, them or us.”

On April 11, another group of high school students will have the unique opportunity to perform inside the church. Johnstown Christian School’s Handbell Choir, under the direction of Kristen Lloyd, is to present a recital alongside the school’s high school choir. A vocal quartet and flutist also are also to share their talents.

“We’ve been hoping for some time to bring in youngsters from the Johnstown Christian School,” Fattman said.

“We’ve had several recommendations to bring the bell choir. Now we are getting the bell choir plus a vocal quartet plus a flutist. Their director, Kristen Lloyd, is such a devoted teacher and musician.”

And Rauch is set to entertain audiences April 18, when he plays the church’s 3,000-pipe Skinner organ.

“Kim knows the instrument well because he used to be the minister of music at First Lutheran,” Fattman said.

Rauch is also the founder of the Tuesday Noon Recital Series, and serves as program director at The Grand Halle, a church-turned-performance-venue in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood. Previously, Rauch taught music at Richland School District and University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Rauch is also responsible for founding the children’s chorus of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra (Inclined to Sing) and has served as organist and choir director at numerous churches within the area.

“I don’t know what Kim is playing, but he’s playing something exuberant and joyous, fitting for the week after Easter,” Fattman said. “Kim is so enthusiastic. This program will reflect that.”

Music composed by Handel and Andrew Lloyd Weber, among others, is to be performed by St. Vincent College senior Kayla Uveges on April 24.

Uveges, a biology major who is minoring in sacred music, is a member of St. Vincent College’s Camerata and Camerata Scholars choirs. She’s to be accompanied that afternoon by Harriett Miller, a longtime piano teacher and performer.

“People love Kayla and have been following her success as a singer since she was a little girl in our congregation,” Fattman said, “and everybody wants Harriett Miller as an accompanist. There will be plenty of nostalgia — but a lot of talent.”

First Lutheran Church’s Tuesday Noon Recital Series, which has been taking place for more than 25 years, is designed to give people a laid-back opportunity to enjoy music during the lunch hour.

“These programs are such a nice break in the middle of the day, and culturally important to downtown Johnstown,” Fattman said. “The programs are excellent, but they’re also short. People can grab a light lunch in just a few more minutes, or they can remain and talk with the artists and others who attend.”

A free luncheon follows each performance. The luncheons are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.

“Good as the music is, it really helps to have lunch, which also is good,” Fattman said. “People ask for recipes or take-out.”

First Lutheran Church is located at 415 Vine St. in downtown Johnstown. For more information about the series, visit www.firstlutheran.info/recitals.htm online.

The Tuesday Noon Recital Series, which takes place in April, July and October, is underwritten by the Carolyn Walker Music Fund, contributions made by those who attend and by the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts through a grant administered by Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance. Other support comes from individual contributions.

Fattman works in conjunction with other members of the congregation, as well as consultants Rosemary Pawlowski, Jean Reavel and the Rev. Dr. Wilbert Boerstler, to bring the series to fruition every year. Greer Koeller serves as chair of the kitchen crew and is a member of the task force.

Together, they host a dozen recitals per year and serve around 1,300 lunches — all on a $4,000 budget.

“This takes organization and the input of about 30 volunteers,” Fattman said, “but people respond to success. They like to perform, they like to attend and they like to help.

“I remember the comment of a popular local artist, who said after his program, ‘Everybody should be doing this!’”

Noon recital series set to kick off

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

A recital is to take place every Tuesday in July at First Lutheran Church as part of the church’s ongoing noon recital series.

The series, which originated about 25 years ago with the intention of serving as a cultural enhancement within the downtown area, allows artists to share their musical talents with community members. Recitals are open to the public free of charge, and a light lunch inside the church’s social hall will follow each performance.

This July, with weather permitting, two of the four recitals will take place outdoors in the Serenity Garden, which is located next to the church.
“A couple years ago, the church razed a chapel, then planted grass and dozens of plants on the site,” said George Fattman, chairman of the recital task force.

“The Worship and Music Committee said we should try to make use of the garden. Being outdoors downtown is a pleasant contrast to the formal sanctuary. We used to do some programs in the chapel, which was relatively un-churchy, and allowed for performances in the round. The garden will be like that, but outside.”

The first performer on July 5 is to be Larry Faust, a keyboardist and Greater Johnstown High School alumnus who was one of the original members of the band Satrycon. He served as a band and/or choral director at Conemaugh Valley, Blacklick Valley and other schools for 31 years, and for 27 years as the organist and choir director at Ferndale United Methodist Church. He also served as pianist-vocalist at First Christian Church in downtown Johnstown.

“Over the years, Larry has played in clubs throughout the region,” Fattman said. “He turns a couple electronic keyboards into a band with prerecorded accompaniment and also voices. People have no problem relating to him. You could call him a variety show or a one-man band.”

The longtime entertainer and teacher is to sing a variety of songs during his outdoor recital. His song selection will represent genres such as big band, polkas and classic rock, among others.

“These keyboards are just amazing, what you can do with them,” Faust said in a press release. “I program in my accompaniment, including some vocalization.”

The second recital, scheduled for July 12, will feature soprano Andrea Blough accompanied by Harriett Miller (this recital will be held inside the church sanctuary).

Blough, who has returned to Somerset County on a summer break from teaching and performing in Taiwan, is to perform classic Schubert songs, as well as some Taiwanese and musical theater-inspired numbers.

“Andrea Blough grew up in Somerset County and took piano lessons from Harriett Miller,” Fattman said. “She has a master’s degree from Westminster Choir College (in Princeton, New Jersey) in vocal performance and pedagogy. She has performed in opera and was the choir master for the Asheville (North Carolina) Lyric Opera. She has performed at Carnegie Hall (in New York City) and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic as a member of the Westminster Symphonic Choir.

“She moved to Taiwan with her husband and two young children and teaches vocal music at the Taipei American School. She has been a soprano soloist in works by Mozart and Vivaldi and is the vocal director of the TAS Upper School musicals, most recently ‘Les Miserables.’ Part of her program at First Lutheran will be Taiwanese folk songs, probably never before presented in the 25-plus years of the series.”

On July 19 in the Serenity Garden, Barry Poglein will present his recital, titled “Holy and Not So Holy.” Poglein will be accompanied by songwriter Sam Coco. Their performance is to feature original songs, and is to rely on some audience participation.

“Audience participation is relatively rare,” Fattman said. “It should be fun, especially outdoors. (Barry and Sam) believe in having a good time.”

The final July recital will take place on July 26 with a “Christmas in July” performance by Dr. Christine Clewell, who has performed for the series twice before.

Clewell is to perform indoors on First Lutheran Church’s 3,000-pipe Skinner organ. The assistant professor of organ and keyboards at Indiana University of Pennsylvania has served as a minister of music at various congregations.

“Being a professor, she makes her programs educational, but ‘Christmas in July’ should be fairly light,” Fattman said. “As an organist, she appreciates the Skinner organ, which was built in the 1920s, when people thought an organ should replicate an orchestra. Christine has been supportive of the series, recommending talented students and faculty members from IUP.”

Fattman described the recitals as “short and informal.”

“The whole thing lasts only an hour,” he said. “The state arts council insists on artistic quality, so we offer good music in a relaxing venue. Nothing stuffy. And there’s no charge, although obviously it helps if people put a couple dollars into a basket at lunch.”

Fattman added that the series is distinctive thanks to audience members’ diversity.

“The audience is influenced by the program,” Fattman said.

“When kids perform, family members attend. When a symphony player performs, the maestro might show up. The original audience was people who work downtown (although fewer workers get an hour off for lunch). And we’ve attracted people who live in nearby low-cost housing for older people, poor people, people with handicaps. Most of them can’t get out to hear live music, because of transportation, cost, their physical limitations, their concern about venturing out at night. On the other hand, we miss people who work out of town or can’t get away at midday. Our artists have ranged from under 8 to over 80 years of age.”

The series is made possible by Fattman and fellow task force members, including Greer Koeller.

“Other members are musicians, plus Koeller, who is in charge of recruiting people to plan the lunches, shop for groceries, prepare the food, decorate the dining area and clean up,” he said. “Some are members of First Lutheran and some are members of other congregations. The task force considers and recruits artists, prepares printed programs, prepares and distributes posters, promotes the series in media, at websites and in direct-mail, and prepares the budget and seeks funding from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. We present 12 programs and more than 1,200 lunches for less than $5,000.

“We have no problem getting people to perform, attend, volunteer . . . I think they feel comfortable while doing something worthwhile for downtown Johnstown. Everybody wants it to succeed.”

Support for the Tuesday Noon Recital Series also comes from the Carolyn Walker Music Fund and is funded in part by Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

First Lutheran Church is located at 415 Vine St. in downtown Johnstown. For more information about the series, visit www.firstlutheran.info online.

Noon recital series set to begin

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

The Tuesday noon recital series at First Lutheran Church in downtown Johnstown is to resume April 5.

“We look for fresh sounds with artistic quality,” recital series chairman George Fattman said. “It attracts an appreciative audience.”

The first performance on the spring schedule is an organ recital by Matthew Beckman, who serves as organist at Moxham Lutheran Church. 

Beckman — also the former director of music at First Lutheran — will perform familiar hymns on the church’s 3,000-pipe restored Skinner organ.

The following week, on April 12, multi-instrumentalist Sam Coco will present a tribute to the Beatles titled “It Was 50 Years Ago Today.” Coco is an educator, songwriter and the conductor of the Johnstown Symphony Chorus who performs under the name Koko.

Pianist Henry Wong Doe will perform on April 19. Wong earned his doctorate from Julliard and currently serves as an associate professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He was born and raised in New Zealand.

University of Pittsburgh graduate Chloe Wieczorek will perform soul and jazz music on April 26. During her senior recital at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, she sang pieces by Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and other American classics.

Light lunches follow each recital, which are approximately 30 minutes in length. Fattman said that the noon recitals allow people to take a unique break during the day.

“It’s something people can do in an hour at midday in a downtown setting,” he said.

First Lutheran Church is located at 415 Vine St. in Johnstown. For more information about the recital series, visit www.firstlutheranchurch.info or call 814-536-2715.
There is no cost to attend the recitals in the series, but contributions may be dropped into a basket during lunch.

Funding for the series comes in part from the state arts council through the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance, as well as the Carolyn Walker Music Fund.

October recital series set to begin

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

Afternoon recitals are scheduled to take place at noon every Tuesday in October at First Lutheran Church in downtown Johnstown.

The first recital, scheduled for Oct. 6, features Susan Pearce of Boswell. She will perform gospel songs alongside Harriett Miller of Johnstown.

“They speak of my faith,” Pearce said of the songs.

Pearce is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in music education. She taught chorus at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, and is a choir member at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Somerset. She also offers piano and voice lessons.

Miller, also a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, has taught piano for over four decades. She shares her talents by playing piano and organ at numerous churches and the atrium inside Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. Miller coordinates music support for First Lutheran’s Saturday night services.

Patrick Romano of Westmont will perform at the recital Oct. 13. Romano is an improvisational pianist and singer. Like Miller, he also performs inside Conemaugh’s atrium. His recital will feature songs by renowned musicians such as Chopin and Richard Rodgers.

On Oct. 20 First Lutheran will welcome Mount Aloysius College’s Vox Nova, an ensemble directed by Nancy Way. Though the students in the ensemble are not music majors, they have received scholarships that acknowledge their musical talents.

The final recital on Oct. 27 will feature George Fattman. Fattman has played First Lutheran’s 3,000-pipe Skinner organ for 50 years. During his recital, he will play music originally composed by Bach and Victor Herbert, among others. His intention is to highlight the many voices of the Skinner organ — a “romantic instrument” of the 1920s.

For more information about First Lutheran’s Tuesday afternoon recitals, visit www.firstlutheran.info online.

The Recital Series takes place during the months of October, April and July. Approximately 30 volunteers make the series possible.

“We spend many hours volunteering,” said Greer Koeller, who coordinates the volunteers. “We believe this ministry reaches not only people who work downtown, but also those who have little access to the arts otherwise. They can come to First Lutheran and hear excellent music, eat a tasty lunch and enjoy the fellowship of others who attend the recitals.”

First Lutheran Church is located at 415 Vine St. in Johnstown.

Noon Recital Series starting up soon

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

First Lutheran Church, located at 415 Vine St. in Johnstown, will host four performances every Tuesday this June as part of the church’s Noon Recital Series. Soprano Kayla Uveges will perform June 9 in the sanctuary. 

Uveges, a Cresson native, is a junior biology major and sacred music minor at St. Vincent College. She is a member of First Lutheran Church, and previously sang for various services and special occasions.

The following Tuesday, First Lutheran’s Music Director Frank Wozniak will sing and play the piano. Wozniak, a Lilly resident, has appeared in theater performances throughout the region and in operettas with the Altoona Symphony.

Parag Dharbhamulla will play light classics on the piano June 23. A Westmont Hilltop High School graduate, Dharbhamulla is an economics major at Penn State University who has taken piano lessons since he was 6 years old.

The final June performance will take place June 30, and will feature D’Verse, a trio who specializes in tight harmonies across a wide array of musical styles. D’Verse performs regularly at the Homestead Inn and also at festivals in Cambria and Somerset counties.

Each recital will be followed by a lunch.

The Noon Recital Series, which began nearly 25 years ago, is designed to give people something to do during their lunch breaks.

“Nowadays fewer working people get an hour break — if any at all — but a diverse audience finds time to enjoy music, food and one another’s company,” said George Fattman, chairman of the recital task force.

The Noon Recital Series is funded the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts through its Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance, the Carolyn Walker Music Fund and individual contributions.

Tuesday noon recitals start next month

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

First Lutheran Church has invited a number of local and regional musicians to perform in next month’s Tuesday Noon Recital Series.

The first scheduled performer is improvisational pianist Dr. Henry Davis, who will return to the church March 10. Davis started playing the piano at a young age and received formal training at the Cleveland Settlement House, Montgomery College and Howard University.

He was pianist for the male trio Voices Supreme, which for five years was named the “Best Male Gospel Group in America” by the Gospel Music Workshop of America. He was also pianist for the acclaimed Howard Gospel Choir.

Davis created “Great Celebration,” an original Christmas musical and an arrangement for “Peace in the Valley,” which won a Peabody Award. He was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution to conduct and perform “Peace in the Valley” as a tribute to Tommy Dorsey.

Davis serves as pastor of Peniel Praise Community Church, as well as an administrator for Johnstown’s Peniel Program. Those who attend his performance can expect to hear Davis play a variety of genres, including gospel and praise songs.

Following Davis’ performance, Christine Clewell will perform on the church’s restored 3,000-pipe organ March 17. Clewell, assistant professor of organ and keyboards at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, has been a guest soloist at the Washington National Cathedral and numerous other venues throughout the Northeast.

Richland High School Chamber Strings, or Del Borgo, will perform at First Lutheran Church on March 24. Then, on March 31, Bishop McCort students Anastasia Hall and Jessica Schulte will perform.

In addition to playing the piano, Hall also plays the trumpet and Schulte the saxophone. They have been appearing in regional and district ensembles.
First Lutheran Church is located at 415 Vine St. in Johnstown.

The church’s Tuesday Noon Recital Series is as a cultural gift to the people who live and work in downtown Johnstown. A light lunch follows each program.
The series is supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts through the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance and the Carolyn Walker Music Fund.