The ProMusica Chamber Orchestra is on the move – again.
Long before the pandemic, the chamber orchestra maintained a large footprint in Greater Columbus, regularly performing concerts not only at its Southern Theater home but also at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Worthington United Methodist Church and, until a few years ago, the Pontifical College Josephinum. Then, during the pandemic, the orchestra expanded to The Fives event space and other locations around town.
Now, ProMusica will be making music in yet another new location – this one among Greater Columbus’ most exciting new places to listen to classical music concerts.
On March 20, the orchestra will perform at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in German Village, which – following a 2016 lightning strike that caused immediate damage and revealed other underlying structural issues – undertook a restoration project that cost $8.5 million. The church was founded in 1865 and inaugurated in 1868.
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St. Mary’s a perfect performance setting
In the fall of 2019, ProMusica CEO Janet Chen and Music Director David Danzmayr gave a tour of the church, whose leaders decided to launch a music series to showcase the restoration.
“We went to see it and were blown away,” said Chen, who was intrigued by the church not only as a possible performance venue, but also as a space to one day make orchestral recordings. .
“I think not all churches have the same feel,” Danzmayr said. “When we walked into St. Mary’s, I thought there was an atmosphere there immediately. You walk in, and I think you immediately feel the outside world drifting away and a certain calm.
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When the pandemic hit, those plans were put on hold, but last spring Mark Voris, a retired music director at several Catholic churches in the area, was recruited to lead the new Music at St. Mary’s series.
“It’s all wood and no carpet, and it (has) high ceilings,” Voris said. “The acoustics were already quite nice, but putting the parquet floor and just the length, the size of the room, is perfect for classical music.”
ProMusica as part of a concert series
Voris knew he wanted ProMusica to be part of the first season of Music at St. Mary’s, which debuted last fall and also featured the Capriccio Jubilee Singers and the Camarata Chamber Ensemble.
“We are thrilled with ProMusica,” he said. “We hope they consider next season and subsequent seasons doing at least one performance there for us.”
The organization has a long history of performances in sacred spaces.
“There is definitely something about the splendor, grandeur and beauty of space,” Chen said. “We think a lot about classical music (and) baroque music obviously originated in those kinds of spaces, going all the way back to Bach.”
The hour-long concert, which will take place without intermission, will feature the string musicians of ProMusica conducted by Danzmayr.
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The first on the bill will be “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, majestic and serene.
“We’re coming out of winter, thinking a bit,” Danzmayr said. “I love Vaughan Williams.”
The maestro added that the work might not have the same impact if heard in a more traditional concert setting such as the Southern.
“I think people would still really appreciate it,” Danzmayr said. “But doing it in a church…sound is more reflected from surfaces.” You get more reverb.
A livelier note will be played by the second piece of the program, “The four seasons of Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla, with solo violin Katherine McLin.
“I love the way Katie plays it,” Danzmayr said.
And ProMusica executives hope audiences will agree, including those who may be new to the orchestra and the restored church in which it will perform.
“We think it will also attract new audiences, especially in the German Village neighborhood who could walk around,” Chen said, “and also see what’s in their backyard.”
In one look
The ProMusica Chamber Orchestra will perform “A Delightful Evening With ProMusica” at 7 p.m. on March 20 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 684 S. 3rd St. Tickets are $28. For more information and current COVID-19 protocols, visit www.promusicacolumbus.org.