Annual Organ Vespers Concert to deliver music from the 'heart'

Music, much like the holiday season, can conjure up a lot of emotions for many people. It has the power to make us happy, make us reflect and make us dance.

Tandy Reussner hopes to tap all these emotions at the 18th annual Organ Vespers Christmas Concert on Dec. 14 at First United Methodist Church.

If you go

What: Organ Vespers 2014: Stirring the Heart at Christmas

When: 5 p.m. Dec. 14

Where: First United Methodist Church, 946 Vermont St.

Cost: The event is free, but attendees are encouraged to donate to this year's beneficiaries, Family Promise and the Women's Heart Health Initiative at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

This year's theme is "Stirring the Heart at Christmas," and features a program of modern and traditional Christmas tunes.

"We'll have pieces that may make you want to stand up and shout, and others that may bring a tear to your eye," says Reussner, the event's primary organizer.

Reussner, a concert organist with more than 30 years of performance experience under her belt, will take the stage at 5 p.m. Dec. 14 at First United Methodist Church, 946 Vermont St.

As in years past, the concert will benefit two charities. Family Promise, one of Reussner's favorite charitable organizations, was selected for the second year in a row.

In keeping with the theme, this year's proceeds (the event is free to addend, but attendees are encouraged to donate) will also benefit the Women's Heart Health Initiative at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. It's an important cause, says Reussner, who has witnessed several of her extended family members battle heart disease. Her mother also worked as a registered nurse in cardiac care for many years.

Reussner, who earned her musical arts Ph.D. in organ performance from Kansas University, will be joined on stage by several guest musicians, including the brand-new Women's Healthcare Choir, a group of female healthcare providers in the Lawrence area that was specifically formed for this concert.

Her husband, Dr. Lee Reussner, and LMH registered nurse Rita Lindsey helped recruit the choir, whose members range from physicians to administrative workers to lab technicians.

The Women's Healthcare Choir will sing one carol solo, then join forces will other musicians and vocalists on two other large-scale pieces, followed by leading the audience in the concert's traditional finale, the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah."

The rest of the guest roster includes a brass ensemble led by Derk Landes on lead trumpet and Dave Swanson on tuba, with backup from KU students. Dr. Rich Galbraith, a percussionist, and flutist Carol Spring will also perform, as well as Max Mayse, Reussner's co-organist at Lawrence's First Christian Church, on a "four-hand, four-leg" organ duet with Reussner.

"I like to make sure the program is varied enough for a general audience to enjoy, and I try to keep in mind the different generations and backgrounds of folks coming to this concert," she says.

Despite being officially billed as "Tandy Reussner and Friends," the concert is something of a family affair.

She frequently asks her daughters, Liesel and Hannah, for opinions on song selections. The sisters, whom Reussner says have "been a part of this concert for most of their lives," will sing a duet together at this year's performance.

Her parents, the people who "taught me to love music," are sure to give their input, too, Reussner says.

"My mom will suggest pieces she's heard or played recently on the piano, and my dad will listen to recordings of pieces with me," she says. "If we both get teary-eyed listening to it, we know it's going to be a good addition to the concert."

The house for this year's concert will open at 4:15 p.m. Seating fills up quickly, as does downtown parking, so Reussner suggests arriving early. Overflow seating will be available with a live video streaming in the church's Brady Hall.


Charles McPheeters 8 years, 2 months ago

Do not miss this program. It is always wonderful. I must be out of town this year and am very sad to miss it this time. Tandy and the family give a beautiful gift to the community with this program. Chuck McPheeters

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