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Longview Symphony brings Christmas tunes to Bach's Lunch series

Megan Hix

By Megan Hix
Dec. 1, 2017 at 11:23 p.m.

Bill Bane plays the organ Friday during Bach's Lunch at First Baptist Church of Longview. Bane was one of four featured organists from area churches brought in by Longview Symphony for a program of holiday music. Other organists chosen for the concert were Gala Strunk, Jay Callender and Lorenz Maycher.

The rich sound of organ music filled the rafters Friday at First Baptist Church in Longview during a Christmas-themed Bach's Lunch.

The performance was Longview Symphony's third such event of the season and featured organists from four area churches as well as one vocalist. The Bach's Lunch series offers free lunchtime performances from area musicians at various East Texas churches.

Erin Tooley, the symphony's executive director, said the holiday performances helped people get into the Christmas spirit. She said classical compositions often have religious roots.

"When you think of a lot of the old composers, a lot of their music was in honor of the Lord and praising him," Tooley said. "So at Christmastime, what a great opportunity to do both."

Organists chosen for the concert were Bill Bane, Gala Strunk, Jay Callender and Lorenz Maycher. More than 100 people were in attendance.

Paul Roberts, a Longview Symphony board member, said the symphony wanted to feature players from downtown Longview churches.

Roberts said Christmas is "a very busy time" for area organists, so the holiday program was an opportunity for them to perform songs they'd already prepared.

"What better than to have a concert with four local organists playing Christmas music?" Roberts said. "And this is a great venue, because it's a huge sanctuary with great acoustics."

The church was decorated with poinsettias and Christmas banners, but the real star of Friday's event was its Aeolian-Skinner organ. Roberts said it is one of the top five in the county.

"(Playing this organ) is a treat for the performers," Roberts said. "And this is the first time we've ever done this downtown, where we've had organists from different denominations perform one concert together."

Raymond Smith, 77, drove 45 minutes to see the concert. Smith, the music director of St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Tyler, said he appreciated the performers' musicianship playing a complex and incredible instrument.

"I love this church and this Aeolian-Skinner organ," Smith said. "I first heard it when I was 15 years old, and I hear it every chance I get."

Audience members could watch the organists play the pedals and keys, as their every move was projected on two large screens.

Tracey Wilson, 59, is a frequent Bach's Lunch attendee. She said the screens allowed the audience to see the "whole-body experience" involved in playing the organ.

"These performers are fabulous," she said. "And it's fun to watch with the projectors; you really get a new appreciation for playing the organ."

The program featured classic Christmas compositions "What Child is This?" and "O Holy Night," as well as selections from other composers. Each song showed off a different side of the organ, from bell-like to loud enough to shake the church pews.

Dana Hubber, 38, brought her home-schooled daughter to see Friday's performances as part of her cultural education.

"It fascinates me to watch them with their feet, because they have to use their whole body for it," she said. "You're getting to listen to amazing music and watch what they're doing at the same time."

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