It was a tribute to two men united by one common theme: music.
The Tribute to Al Gerwing and Gegory Schulte at Assumption Church in Marysburg on June 24 was a concert worthy to be performed at the courts of kings and queens.
It began on a festive note, and the enthusiasm never waned. The choir, made up of Marysburg Regional Choir members and friends who had sung with Gerwing in the past, were processed through the nave of the Assumption Church to the sounds of a brass quintet playing 17th century composer Daniel Speer’s “Sonata for Organ and Brass.”
Brian Unverricht from the University of Saskatchewan conducted the choir and the brass ensemble for the duration of the concert. With the exception of a few pieces, Sharon Guina, of Humboldt, accompanied the choir throughout the concert with great musical sensitivity.
The concert continued with several choral selections that had been chosen with Gerwing and Schulte in mind, and which illustrated the incredible impact both men have had on music in the area and of the creation and development of the Marysburg Centre of the Arts.
Three hymns from the past were followed by a selection of choral pieces where faith, hope and love was the underlying theme, a tribute through words and music that referred to their deep spiritual convictions.
But no tribute to Gerwing would be complete without a reference to the enormous legacy he left to the community through his love for musical theatre.
In the first half of the concert, the choir and soloists performed a selection of numbers from what was perhaps Gerwing’s favourite musical, “The Sound of Music.”
Master of ceremonies Steve Buttinger told the audience many anecdotes over the evening, and one was about how Gerwing agreed to accompany his “Aunt Louise” — also a musician — to a “Von Trapp Family music camp” that she wanted to attend. From that day forward, Buttinger said, he was sold on musicals.
There was also a selection of pieces from “The Music Man,” performed by soloists Maxine Moore, Roberta Duncan, Rita Frank, Anna-Marie Mollenbeck, Angela Yakimoski, Robert Dick and Robert Henderson. All the soloists joined together for a rousing version of “Seventy-six trombones,” complete with the appropriate sounds coming from the brass ensemble.
While much of Schulte’s musical career has been as an organist, during this concert, Marysburg audiences had the rare treat to hear Schulte play two piano pieces by Chopin. His first selection was the “Fantaisie Impromptu, Op. 66,” after which Schulte took a moment to tell the public something about the second piece he had chosen to play that evening.
“I once spent 20 minutes looking out at the Pacific Ocean when I was in Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and it was an experience that transformed me,” Schulte told the audience. “I wished then I could think of some music to express what I was feeling.
“Then I remembered the etude written by Chopin, and it became something very important for me because it represented the epitome of what I experienced that day.”
Schulte then sat down at the piano and played Chopin’s “Etude, Op. 25, No 12 in C minor” that he also refers to as “Ocean.”
Before the choir came back on for the last two pieces in the concert, the audience was once again treated to another familiar face at Marysburg, baritone Henri Loiselle. For this performance, pianist Martin Janovsky accompanied Loiselle on the piano, and the two musicians who work regularly together gave a polished, if slightly operatic version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a medley of French tunes including “Non, je ne regrette rien” where Janovsky’s incredible swing showed his versatility on the keyboard. Their last number was “The Impossible Dream,” from the musical “The Man of La Mancha” by Mitch Leigh.
A moved Schulte addressed the audience one more time before the final two numbers with the choir to speak about the legacy of the Assumption Church, and why it was so important to both Gerwing and himself.
“If you all just turn around, you’ll see something worthwhile that has been done inside this church,” Schulte began. “And it’s only thanks to people like Al, who helped us to understand how beautiful these things are.”
The choir, brass ensemble, and Schulte performed “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Be With You, Till We Meet Again” to close the concert, and received a standing ovation from the full house of Marysburg fans.