Marysville church choir ministers through music

MARYSVILLE — Mountain View Presbyterian Church is known for its community outreach and its music, sometimes simultaneously.

Students at Cascade Elementary School across the street from the church were without a choir teacher during the 2011-12 school year. They also had a week of early release days one term. Many children had no where to go after school.

The church’s choir director Dustin Willetts and pastor John Mason jumped in to help. Volunteers from the church escorted students across the street to Mountain View to offer the children five afternoons of music. Later, the kids sang the songs they learned that week during school assemblies.

“The most significant things this church does don’t happen on Sunday mornings,” Mason said.

The church choir also helps struggling families with children at Cascade Elementary School during its annual Walking in Warmth benefit concerts.

“We received 100 coats and 100 pairs of new shoes after the concert this past school year. We have a wonderful relationship with Mountain View Presbyterian,” Cascade Principal Teresa Williams said. “They have done a lot for our community.”

The Celebration Singers choir at Mountain View also sets a high performance standard for itself, Mason said. The choir’s repertoire includes an eclectic mix of classical, southern gospel, Christian rock, traditional hymns and ethnic music.

“A Sunday morning can be like a box of chocolates,” Willetts said. “A good variety of music.”

In June, most of the choir traveled to New York City to sing with other choirs from around the country in a performance of contemporary British composer John Rutter’s “Magnificat” at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

The concert’s conductor Solveig Holmquist had been Willetts’ conducting teacher at West Oregon University. Knowing the quality of work that Willetts, 29, was doing at his church, Holmquist invited Willetts and his choir to perform with her.

Others involved in the concert included high school choirs from California, Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New Jersey, a college choir from upstate New York and community choirs from Oregon and New York.

“We were the only church choir involved,” Willetts said. “Mountain View has a tradition of musical excellence and this was a great way to celebrate it. It was a testament to our focus. We intended to sing ‘Magnificat’ with joy and passion.”

After the invitation to perform was accepted, six months of intensive rehearsals ensued.

“It was hard work,” said choir member Stephanie Clark. “It’s a difficult piece.”

Traveling to and staying in Manhattan wasn’t a cheap deal, either. The choir had fundraisers to come up with the $30,000 needed to fly the choir to New York and feed and house its members for several days of rehearsals and the performance on June 17.

Teams of people at home prayed for safety for the travelers and for a meaningful performance, Mason said.

Clark, who also serves as the church secretary is an alto, Mason is a tenor and Willetts sings baritone.

“Performing in Lincoln Center was pretty great,” Willetts said.

“The acoustics couldn’t be better,” Mason said.

“It was powerful,” Clark said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Celebration Singers

The 26 people from Celebration Singers who went to New York are sopranos Natalie Senff, Kris Mason, Tracy Raymond, Amanda Sutherland, Becky Kitzman, Emma Honeyman, Erika King; altos Karen Senff, Stephanie Clark, Judy Aiton, Lynn Belan, Heather Harvey, Lauren Willetts, Joyce Cooper, Sarah Cunningham; tenors Rich Senff, Jim Fletcher, John Mason, Hal Clark, Jay Belan; and basses Paul Vernon, Paul Thompson, Nathan Senff, Duard King, Dustin Willetts and Don Cunningham.

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