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Trinity Lutheran Church holds 3 concert series

| Saturday, July 24, 2004

The ecumenical spirit soars on the spirited notes of musicians and vocalists of many faiths visiting the Valley during the summer.

Few modes of expression cross denominational lines more effectively than music.

That has been seen for decades in the Pittsburgh-Tarentum Campmeeting Association weekend series at their grounds in Harrison, and it is the foundation for the inaugural Trinity Concert Series in Freeport.

The concerts for the community at Trinity Lutheran Church began June 13 with a trio of trumpeters from the River City Brass Band.

The series will continue at 6 p.m. Sunday with a program called "Simple Gifts," featuring the Strittmatter Trio. Jeanne Strittmatter Tupper, cello, Michelle Hoffman, flute, and Karen Gavin, violin, are three talented sisters who perform a classical and baroque instrumental repertoire.

Growing up in Westmoreland County, they provided the soundtrack for many events in the Greensburg Roman Catholic Diocese, including performing on Bishop Anthony Bosco's weekly program on WTAE-TV. Alumni of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, they have performed in Heinz Hall and Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.

"They are very fine players," says Drew Fennell of Harrison, who, with wife Krista Neal, are organizing the Trinity series. Fennell is co-associate conductor and assistant principal solo cornetist for the River City Brass Band.

He is pleased with response to the three-concert series thus far. It will conclude at 6 p.m. Aug. 8 with a performance headlined by Matthew Murchison, a River City Brass Band member whom Fennell says is one of the finest euphonium players in the United States.

The best part of the debut concert in June was the composition of the audience, Fennell says. "We were grateful for the support of Trinity members, and we were encouraged by the people from outside Trinity's church family. This was the whole reason we started this series: to bring people together so they can share the experience of good music."

Tupper appreciates that sentiment.

"Music is one of the liturgies of every church. We really feel that's our liturgy," she says. She believes music is vital to any service to provide reflection and complement prayer.

She agrees that music long has been an ecumenical standard bearer. "We've played for just about every denomination," she says.

Churches provide an excellent setting for concerts, she adds.

"Most have excellent acoustics. From a musicians' perspective, it's very rewarding performing in a space where sound is at its peak," Tupper says. "A church is built to hold that sound every Sunday." She performed without her sisters on Palm Sunday at Trinity.

Tupper says that while the Strittmatter Trio's repertoire, which includes Handel, Bach and Mozart, among others, primarily will be secular, "most of the composers were employed by religious leaders; they worked for the church."

The trio will be joined by a fourth sister, Lisa Strittmater, 18, on piano for one selection. She is majoring in music at Duquesne University, where sister Michelle was a music major. Jeanne and Karen graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with music degrees.

Tupper believes the sisterly connection enhances the trio. "It is an intuitive thing, as well as the fact we have been playing together 16 years. We know each other's signals and signs," she says.

The Stritmatters offer a flexibility, she says. "We can kind of fit into any situation," Tupper says. "The group is pretty unique."

Additional Information:

If you go

What: Trinity Concert Series.

When: 6 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Trinity Lutheran Church, Buffalo and Fifth streets, Freeport.

Cost: Free-will offering.

Details: 724-295-9557.

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