AP NEWS

Concert to honor survivors, victims of storm, shooting

April 10, 2019

The Bay Area Chorus of Greater Houston will present a free May 5 concert at a Dickinson church in tribute to victims and survivors of both Hurricane Harvey and the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School.

“We hope to answer a question many are asking — ‘Is there hope?’ Our message will be, ‘There is hope,’” said Milton Pullen, the group’s artistic director and conductor, who lives in League City.

“Requiem for the Living - Disasters from 2017-2018” will be at 4 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 200 FM 517 Road West, Dickinson.

Eight students and two teachers were killed in the May 18 shooting rampage at Santa Fe High. Thirteen more were wounded. Hurricane Harvey caused widespread devastation and death in August 2017 in Dickinson and other area communities.

“Neighbors, friends and families have assisted in the cleanup, repairs and rebuilding of their lives after the loss of order, tangible possessions and life of too many near and dear,” Pullen said. “We will honor the brave and resilient and reflect on loss and the stress of situations beyond our control.”

Santa Fe Mayor Jason Tabor and Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters will make opening remarks at the concert, and a color guard from the Santa Fe Fire and Rescue organization will perform, Pullen said.

Professional musicians will accompany the Bay Area Chorus, a volunteer collective of more than 90 singers. They will perform three pieces, including “Let My Love Be Heard” by Jake Ruinestad, “Requiem for the Living” by Dan Forrest and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” arranged by Mack Wilberg, the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Soloists for the featured number, “Requiem for the Living,” will be a pair of Clear Creek High School alumni — internationally renowned operatic tenor Jesús Garcia and League City soprano Julie (Thornton) Hoeltzel.

“A requiem is often thought of as a symbol of death, but this arrangement is really uplifting,” said Hoeltzel, who is a teaching artist for Houston Grand Opera.

“The five movements of the work form a narrative just as much for the living and their own struggle with pain and sorrow, as for the dead,” Pullen said.

The requiem includes a part for a child soprano, who Pullen said “will represent the ‘student’ in our effort to pay tribute to the Santa Fe community and remember those who perished.”

Singing the role will be Pullen’s granddaughter, Megan, whose parents are Sean and Amanda Pullen.

Megan Pullen was born in Webster but is a sixth-grader in Canyon, where her father is the director of choral activities at West Texas A&M University.

Sean Pullen and his twin brother Kyle were Hoeltzel’s co-choir directors at Clear Creek High. Milton Pullen became her instructor at Pepperdine University, where Hoeltzel graduated with a bachelor’s in music in 2012. Next, she earned a master’s in vocal performance and pedagogy at the University of Houston.

Now 27, she is married to Austin Hoeltzel, a worship leader at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in League City. The couple sings in HGO.

Garcia, who lives in Philadelphia, Pa., also came home last spring to sing four solos in a Bay Area Chorus program of inspiring works, “Strictly A Capella.”

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net