Church hosts ‘real labor of love’

April 1, 2019

The sign outside First Wayne Street United Methodist Church advertised a free concert Sunday, but the senior pastor was quick to tell the audience they were in for something more.

“If you want just a concert, there are many places you can go in Fort Wayne for that,” the Rev. Cheryl Garbe said. “And this is not just exquisite musicians and beautiful music, because if that’s all you came for, you can find that other places, too.”

She addressed the packed sanctuary as a Purdue University Fort Wayne choir filled the risers behind her. The University Singers’ performance was followed by the Trine University Choir, First Wayne Street Sanctuary Choir and First Wayne Street Chamber Choir.

The groups then united for two pieces, most notably Dan Forrest’s “Requiem for the Living,” a 40-minute performance accompanied by musicians from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

The effort marked the first of its kind for the downtown church’s music program, given the 18-piece orchestra, number of choirs and number of singers : about 90 in all, said Geoffrey North, music director.

It’s not the “kind of thing churches are usually able to do,” he said afterward, noting he was fortunate to carry out the “real labor of love.”

Rehearsals began in January, but the choirs had only two opportunities to practice together, said North, who directs the Trine and church choirs.

Ryan Kosek, a bass for Trine, not only enjoyed the acoustics at First Wayne Street UMC but also the quality of music the nearly 100 singers created.

“It’s a blast to sing with larger, more talented choirs,” said Kosek, a senior majoring in chemical engineering.

As other singers glanced down at their songbook during “Requiem,” Kosek kept his eyes facing the audience, his black binder seemingly for show.

“I have a really good memory for music,” he explained, noting he was one of the few who memorized the piece.

“Requiem” : which includes tricky harmonies : is vocally demanding and requires concentration, North said.

The choirs, he said, “outdid themselves today.”

Audience members seemed to agree. After the concert, North was soon surrounded by people quick to shake his hand, give him a hug and pay him compliments.

“Beautiful,” one woman told him. “Absolutely beautiful.”

Garbe, in her opening remarks, prepared the audience for experiencing a place accessible through such means as preaching or music: the space between heaven and earth, souls and God.

“This will be, for you today, a thin place,” Garbe said. “For God will draw near, and you will touch a piece of heaven.”