Brandenburg Concert’s spring program ‘Let Love Be Heard’ to be held in Three Rivers Sunday

For the first time in four years, Brandenburg Concert will perform its spring program Sunday at Three Rivers Presbyterian Church. The theme is “Let Love Be Heard,” and will feature a variety of songs from waltzes and sacred music, to spirituals and show tunes. 

The community-based a cappella group was founded in 1991 by Kurt Brandenburg. “We’ve got a really nice mix of voices, and it’s really become a lovely community,” founding member and director Verna Troyer told Watershed Voice. “We’ve all come from some kind of music background, but we aren’t all trained as musicians. For all of us, music has always been a very important part of our lives.” Troyer said the group first came together simply to sing renaissance music. “We started out with five voices and we got together to sing just for the sake of singing,” she said. “It’s been a very evolving group.”

Troyer will be directing several pieces throughout the show including Brahms’ waltzes, where she will be accompanied on the piano by Presbyterian Church organist Charles Collins. Another song Troyer will lead will be the hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” rearranged by composer Elaine Hagenberg.

Troyer will be joined by Brandenburg’s co-director Barry Heywood who told Watershed Voice the program’s theme of “Let Love Be Heard” can be seen reflected in both Troyer’s direction of Brahm’s waltzes as well as his contemporary-style pieces. One of those songs, “Sing Gently,” is composed by Eric Whitacre, and was written during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heywood said he felt a note from Whitacre in the piece of music sets the tone perfectly for Sunday’s concert:

“In March of 2020 as the COVID-19 crisis began to unfold around the world, it became clear that this moment in history was going to remembered as one of great suffering for many people, as well as a time of growing division and dissent. It seemed as the global community began to isolate physically from one another, the same kind of isolation was happening on a social level, and the very fabric of society was tearing at the seams. In that spirit, I wrote the music and words to ‘Sing Gently,’ with the hopes it might give some small measure of comfort for those who need it, and that it might suggest a way of living with one another that is compassionate, gentle and kind.”

Eric Whitacre

While Heywood described “Sing Gently” as being soft, melodic, and soothing, he said he kept his music selection diverse by also including some popular and instantly-recognizable tunes, as well. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Brandenburg will be singing the movie’s classic hit “Pure Imagination.” Heywood said the program is intended to have an uplifting feel, and said “Every Time I Feel The Spirit, I Will Pray” will be an upbeat song, which will make the audience want to stand up and sing along. 

Both Troyer and Heywood recognize the magic Brandenburg contains, and both attribute it to the group’s members. “It’s a very strong, personal, family-type of feeling you get there,” Heywood said. “If you join Brandenburg you immediately feel that. Most of the people there have had some kind of relationship to public service or extending the mission of the church. It’s that kind of group.”

Troyer said ensuring every Brandenburg program is free and open to public is very important to the ensemble. “We depend entirely on donations, and crowd size affects what we do,” Heywood added. The program will be held at Three Rivers Presbyterian Church April 30 at 3 p.m. and the group invites everyone to join and enjoy their spring program. “When you sing together and create beauty through music it brings you together as a community,” Troyer said.

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.