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Musical Celebration: Westminster marks 50 years with concert series

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Marlee Clymer sings during a choir rehearsal Wednesday for a concert celebrating Westminster Presbyterian Church's 50th anniversary. The church is planning a series of performances this year to mark the anniversary. A string concert will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday.

When Joan Launer and 13 other Presbyterians started meeting in homes and DeKalb’s Masonic Temple in the early 1960s, they didn’t know what the future would hold for their small, but faithful group.

The meetings were about having a means to express their Presbyterian faith, not necessarily establishing a legacy that would live on for half a century and counting.

“I never thought about it,” Launer said. “I was just excited about doing it.”

But that small group grew, and in 1964 formed the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 830 N. Annie Glidden Road, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a series of musical events.

The church will host a free chamber concert on Sunday, the second in the series of musical events celebrating the church’s 50th anniversary. Any member of the public is invited to the event, which will be followed by a reception.

The concert will feature violinist Mathias Tacke, a violin professor at Northern Illinois University and former second violinist of the Vermeer Quartet. Viola player Ann Montzka and cellist Thomas Cappaert will accompany Tacke in a performance of Beethoven’s “String Trio in D Major.”

Violinists Victor Ryzhov and Laurie Rodriguez will join Cappaert in a string trio by Mozart. Cappaert and the music organizer and church patron Jan Vander Meer will perform “Sonata in G Major for Cello and Piano” by Sammartini.

The Rev. Blake Richter, who came to Westminster as the head pastor in 1997, said the concert series is a reflection of the church’s goal to let people outside the congregation share in the space at the church. He encouraged everyone to attend, even if they don’t have a religious affiliation.

“It’s really a time for us to reflect on what kind of legacy we have and where we want to go in the future,” Richter said. “This musical celbration grew out of the congregation because we have lots of folks with different talents.”

The first in the series of musical events was a piano recital. Aside from the chamber concert Sunday, the upcoming events include a concert from local group, Jazz in Progress, and others from the many musical groups associated with Westminster.

Beginnings

When Launer and her husband, John, first came to DeKalb, the city didn’t have a Presbyterian church. The Presbyterian-raised couple started attending another church, and shortly after were contacted about a group that would eventually form the Westminister Presbyterian Church.

Although they purchased land in 1962, members of the group, including Launer, continued meeting in different places around DeKalb until the church on Annie Glidden Road was finished in 1969. To officially organize the church required 100 signatures on the church covenant. Five charter members remain active at Westminster. Aside from Joan and John Launer, the other members are John Buell, Bill Draper and Gloria Janke.

When Vander Meer arrived in 1983, church patrons were sitting on chairs set on a concrete floor. She’s been dedicated to the church since being asked to join the choir.

“We grew up in the reformed tradition and we were looking for that when we moved here,” Vander Meer said. “We were welcomed and felt right at home.”

Westminister currently boasts a 300-member congregation in a church containing a library, choir room, nursery, offices and meeting rooms. The sancuary was dedicated in 2005, giving the church additional space to serve the community.

“It’s wonderful,” Launer said. “I think back to what it was like back then and having to go in every Sunday and set up the chairs in the temple and take it all down. It’s just wonderful.”

The first in the series of musical events was a piano recital. Aside from the chamber concert Sunday, the upcoming events include a concert from local group, Jazz in Progress, and others from the many musical groups associated with Westminster.

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