Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Music and Art at the ESUMC

The East Stroudsburg, PA United Methodist Church (ESUMC) presented Organist Christopher Johnson on Sunday October 18th upon the Allen Elite OPUS III Organ as part of their 2015 Concert Series. Along with a solo performance given by Mr. Johnson, a bell choir known as the ESUMC Ringers and pianist Pauline Fox (the church's Organist and coordinator of the series) shared their talents as well. The concert was followed by reception which included a Fall Art Exhibit which the large number of music lovers who attended the concert could enjoy while snacking and chatting with one another.

The afternoon's program began with a performance given by the ESUMC Ringers who exquisitely played a hymn titled, “Cwm Rhondda” along with Joe Dorsch on Saxophone and Stacy Keller on Drums. The words of the hymn were written by Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24th, 1878 - October 5th, 1969) who was a prominent minister at The Riverside Church in New York, NY in the 1920s and 1930s. He became a central figure in the "Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy" for presenting the Bible as a record of the unfolding of God’s will and not as the literal “Word of God.” Mr. Fosdick also reviewed the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939 and gave it his approval. AA members continue to point to this review as significant in the development of the AA movement.

As the performance of the ESUMC Ringers concluded, Reverent James Todd (The Senior Pastor of the church) stood before the gathering to share his welcoming words and a prayer. He was followed by PA State Representative David Parker who presented a Certificate of Welcome to Christopher Johnson. This was followed by words of appreciations expressed by Mr. Johnson leading to an introduction of the first piece he would play for the concert which included a variety of styles from the 1700s to the present day.

The fist half of the program began with “Grand Dialogue in C” by Louis Marchand (1669 – 1932) and concluded with “Prelude and Fugue in D, BWV 532” by J. S. Bach (1685 - 1750). Each composition was presented with a grace which not only complimented the work but transcended its properties allowing the listener to discover the conjunctive essence of the music and their own being. As each composition concluded, Mr. Johnson would weave the next together with the previous one with a thread of joyously shared information and insights to the work. This exposition not only gave the audience a deeper understanding of the piece but filled them with amusement which further enhanced their connection with the work. A great number of conversations ensued during the break reflecting the effects of the music had one the individuals sharing their words.

The second half of the program began with “Fanfare to the Tongues of Fire” by Larry King (1932 – 1990). This portion of the concert included a Piano and Organ Duo in which Mr. Johnson was joined by Pianist Pauline Fox. The selections they played were “Pianosong” by Paul Halley (Born 1950) and “Holy, Holy, Holy” as arranged by Mark Hayen and Marvin Gaspard with the final movement from Symphony Number 5 by Charles-Marie Jean Albert Widor (February 21st, 1844 - March 12th, 1937) titled, “Toccata.” As the final notes of the piece touched the air, Ms. Fox shared her appreciation to the audience by bowing to them and Mr. Johnson resumed his soloist status for the remainder of the program.

The final pieces of the concert included four Spiritual works as arranged by William Farley Smith (1941-1997) and “Give My Regards to Broadway” written by George M. Cohan (July 3rd, 1878 - November 5th, 1942) for his play titled, “Little Johnny Jones” that opened in 1904. The version Mr. Johnson performed was arranged by Jelani Eddington who was born in 1974. This rousing composition concluded the program which was followed by words of appreciation shared by Ms. Fox along with a closing benediction.

The concert was followed by a reception in the church's Fellowship Hall where a wide variety of delicious foods were waiting. In addition to the scrumptious cuisine, the 10th Annual ESUMC Fine Art Exhibit was on display as coordinated by Liz Green. The entirety of the work lured the viewer into its essence through their gentle hues and depictions. Many of those who attended the concert delved into each piece to experience the fullness of it. The work was hung the previous Saturday evening and was on display from 9am until 5:30pm on Sunday October 18th. It was fortunate that those who attended the concert and touched by it's marvelous performances were able to partake of the visual wonders that whispered their properties to each individual who explored it. You’ll find more photographs taken during the event in The Music and Art at the ESUMC Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154287104948761.1073741910.91146283760&type=3.

Christopher Johnson is a native of Tulsa, OK and is a graduate of The Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. He presently serves as Director of Music and Organist at The Riverside Church in New York, NY. In addition to being a superb Organist, Mr. Johnson held a two-year tenured position as section violist with the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra and performed in a number of other professional orchestras throughout the Midwest. Mr. Johnson has been a prizewinner at the 2001 San Marino Organ Competition and the 2003 National Association of Negro Musicians’ Organ Competition. He is also a commercial pilot and flight instructor at Century Air in Fairfield, NJ and plays flute in the East Stroudsburg University of PA Orchestra. You can learn more about Christopher Johnson by emailing him at cjohnson@trcnyc.org.

The East Stroudsburg, PA United Methodist Church (ESUMC) is a religious organization devoted to the Christian faith whose mission is “To Love Jesus Christ and to Share His Love.” They hold three services each Sunday which includes two traditional services and one that is contemporary in nature. Everyone is welcome to participate in their ministry events and worship services. You can learn more about The East Stroudsburg, PA United Methodist Church by exploring their Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/pages/East-Stroudsburg-United-Methodist-Church/125512147493695 or their Website at www.esumc.net.

Photography by Paparazzi Paul.

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