RELIGION: Grace Church honors Paul Olson for 20 years of gifted musicianship

October 24, 2012 By Francesca Norsen Tate Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Paul Richard Olson was honored on Sunday as he completed his 20th year of service as Organist and Choirmaster of Grace Church Brooklyn Heights.

Olson was saluted during both morning services, with the Rev. Stephen D. Muncie, Rector, saying that he “looks forward to the next 30 years” with Olson. The real surprises came during a champagne brunch following the liturgies.
Jacque Jones, well-known to the neighborhood and a published author of hymn texts, had written a hymn specifically for this occasion. The Grace Church Parish Choir, still in liturgical vestments, led the singing of “As Starlight Warms to Daybreak,” in four-part harmony.

Jones later told the Brooklyn Eagle, “The name of the tune is BRED DINA VIDA VINGAR and it is a Swedish folk tune.  [Parish Administrator] Sally Larson approached me a couple of months ago to tell me that this celebration was being planned and to ask me if I would be willing to write something.  I was thrilled with how well it was received.”

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Grace Church’s Senior Warden, Tom Chittenden, and his wife, Wendy, both of whom helped plan Sunday’s event, presented Olson with a proclamation, with Wendy’s calligraphy. Excerpted here, the proclamation praises Olson for being a “consummate musician and superb organist, a master of the Episcopal and Jewish liturgies, a brilliant choirmaster and gifted teacher, a wordsmith of metaphor and wit, a Pied Piper leading the little children of Grace Church into a lifelong love of song.” The proclamation also declares that “he has served as a distinguished ambassador of both Grace Church and Grace Church School to the wider neighborhood of Brooklyn and New York City.”

The Proclamation presented to Organist & Choirmaster Paul Richard Olson. Photo by Franklin StoneThe proclamation and a framed copy of “As Starlight Warms to Daybreak” stayed on exhibit during the brunch.

Olson, whom the Rev. Goldthwaite Sherrill (now rector emeritus) hired in 1992, has served during three rector tenures: those of Mr. Sherrill; his successor, the Rev. Nils Blatz, and the current rector, Fr. Muncie. During this time, Mr. Olson and the choir have worked with the clergy to lead services, including the beloved traditions of Lessons & Carols and Evensong, with deep reverence.

Both Olson and his predecessor, Dr. Mary Monroe, have built an ensemble whereby volunteer singers and professional section leaders all value each other equally. Olson has further nurtured this ensemble to the point in which he and each chorister intuit each other.  Choristers of different voice parts are interspersed among each other, thereby enabling them to listen even more attentively to their colleagues. He and the Parish Choir have begun rehearsing music for this year’s Lessons and Carols service, scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 16 at 5 p.m.


Introducing children to the pipe organ

The American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter introduces the pipe organ to Young Musicians this Saturday, at “Pedals, Pipes & Pizza.”

Plymouth Church hosts this special program for young musicians. “Pedals, Pipes and Pizza” gives children and youth a brief introduction to the pipe organ and its music. The program runs from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $5.

The Brooklyn chapter of the American Guild of Organists gathers at Plymouth on Saturday, Oct. 27, for a special program for young musicians. From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., children and youth will get a brief introduction to the pipe organ and its music. There is a suggested donation of $5. For more information, contact Music Minister Bruce Oelschlager at Plymouth Church (718-624-4743). The landmark church is on Orange St. between Henry and Hicks streets in Brooklyn Heights.

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Barclays Center will host finale of Verizon-sponsored Gospel Fest

The Barclays Center at the nexus of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, which opened last Friday, hosts the grand finale of Verizon’s “How Sweet the Sound” Gospel Fest in early November.

This gospel music celebration features feature today’s major Gospel stars, including Donald Lawrence, Yolanda Adams, Erica Campbell of Mary Mary, Fred Hammond, Bishop Hezekiah Walker and CeCe Winans.

New York –Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound Gospel Celebration, considered the nation’s premiere and most prestigious gospel music competition, is back for its fifth year. Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound Gospel Celebration pays tribute to gospel music and provides choirs a platform to showcase their talent. This year, regional events have been held in Dallas, Atlanta, Washington, Newark, Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles, with the Finale being held at the Barclays Center on Nov. 4.

Choirs have the opportunity to rejoice in song and praise; sing in front of gospel greats and fans; and compete for a chance to win up to $50,000 in cash and prizes.

“Verizon is pleased to once again bring this dynamic program to the community,” said Marquett Smith, vice president of corporate communications and community relations, Verizon Wireless. “Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound allows us to connect with our customers and celebrate the impact that local church choirs and gospel music have on the community.”

Grammy award-winning, songwriter, producer, arranger and music director Donald Lawrence returns as host. Joining him is Grammy award-winning entertainer, producer, author and syndicated radio host Yolanda Adams. Erica Campbell of Mary Mary, Fred Hammond, Bishop Hezekiah Walker and CeCe Winans will serve as resident judges for this year’s competition.

Last year, Tarboro, N.C. based Salvation and Deliverance Church Choir won the grand prize and the title “Best Gospel Choir in America.” The choir used the prize money to support “Weight on the Lord,”  a program designed to help people in their community make healthier lifestyle choices. They were also able to kick off their “How Sweet The Tidings” program just in time for the holidays. The program afforded them the chance to adopt five families for the holidays, giving them food and gifts.

Tickets to the 2012 Verizon How Sweet the Sound are on sale now. For more details about Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound including video content, judging criteria, ticket sales information, and official rules, please visit


Dr. Roald Hoffmann  Photo courtesy of Cornell University Press Office.Child Holocaust survivor, now a Nobel Laureate chemist, speaks at Kristallnacht observance

This year’s Kristallnacht observance at New York City Technical College tells the harrowing story of a child survivor of the Holocaust: Dr. Roald Hoffmann, now Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Cornell University Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus.

Kristallnacht was the name given to the series of pogroms staged during the night of Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, against the Jewish communities of Germany. This tragedy — because countless lives were lost — is known as “Night of the Broken Glass” because of the countless broken windows — of synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers, and homes plundered and destroyed during the pogroms. The pogroms and oppressive policies against Jews that followed, led to the start of the Holocaust — the state-sponsored genocide of the Jewish people.

Dr. Hoffmann’s presentation will focus on his harrowing experiences during World War II as well as on his education and early experiences after coming to America in 1949.

During the Holocaust in Zloczów, Poland an Ukrainian neighbor teacher’s family, the Dyuk’s, hid Hoffman, his mother, two uncles and an aunt in the unlit attic and then a storeroom of the local village schoolhouse.

According to Yad Vashem’s records the family was first recognized by the Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations [recognizing those non-Jews, who risked their lives to save to save Jews during the Holocaust in 2007 and the Righteous Among the Nations Medal was presented to their daughter. Mykola died in 1972; and his wife, Maria, in 1983.

Hoffman visited Zloczów with his adult son (then a parent of a 5-year-old) in 2006 and found that the attic where he had hidden was still intact, but the storeroom had been incorporated, ironically enough, into a chemistry classroom. In 2009, a monument to Holocaust victims was built in Zloczów on Hoffmann’s initiative.

Introducing Dr. Hoffmann will be Robin Hirsch, writer, theater director and co-owner of Cornelia Street Café here in New York City, and author of Last Dance at the Hotel Kempinski. In his Nobel Lecture, Dr. Hoffmann spoke of building bridges between two realms of chemistry. It has been said that he also builds bridges between science and the humanities. Dr. Hoffmann will receive JFSA’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award.

Since the spring of 2001, Dr. Hoffmann has been the host of a monthly series of programs at the Cornelia Street Café called “Entertaining Science,” which explores the juncture between the arts and sciences in a delightful manner that provides a serious introduction to science.

Following Dr. Hoffmann’s presentation, City Tech English Professor Jane Mushabac, Cornell alumna and past City Tech Scholar on Campus, will moderate a discussion.

She has been a fellow of the Mellon Foundation and of the NEH, and has a BA magna cum laude from Cornell, an MA from Harvard and a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center. She is associate professor of English at City Tech where she was the 2011 Scholar on Campus.

This City Tech event commemorating the 74th anniversary of Kristallnacht begins at 12:45  p.m. in the College’s Atrium Amphitheater, 300 Jay St. Admission is free.

This program’s primary sponsor is the City Tech Jewish Faculty & Staff Association (JFSA). Event co-sponsors, in alphabetical order, include: ADL/Hidden Child Foundation,  Baruch College Jewish Studies Center, Cornell Hillel: The Yudowitz Center for Jewish Campus Life, Cornell Office of Alumni Affairs, Education Update, Facing History and Ourselves, Foundation for Jewish Culture, Interfaith Committee of Remembrance, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Macaulay Honors College/CUNY and Simon Wiesenthal Center – Museum of Tolerance New York.


Siloam Church marks 161st year with justice and wellness programs

Siloam Presbyterian Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant hosts a series of discussions on social justice and wellness.

The Siloam Men’s Organization sponsors “Black on Black Violence: (Stop & Frisk, Who’s to Blame?)” a panel discussion, on Friday, Oct. 26. The program runs from 6 to 8 p.m.

Spirituality and Wellness are the focus of a morning health fair on Saturday, Oct. 27, offering HIV Testing, Healthcare Agencies, Blood Donor Bank, and Nutrition.” A discussion on spirituality will run from 10 to 11 a.m.  That evening, a panel discussion examines the “Integrity of Religion: (If God is Alive and Well, Why Are We Not)?” The discussion runs from 6 to 8 p.m.

All these events are part of Siloam Church’s celebration of “161 Years of Service” to the community. The church is at 260 Jefferson Ave.


First Presbyterian Church’s stalwart tower as seen just after a February, 2010 snowstorm. Photo by Francesca Norsen TateMilestones in Faith: First Presbyterian Church marks 190th year in Heights

First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, now marking its 190th year, was founded in 1822. According to some recollections, the church was founded in October of that year.

A published church history, titled First Church Since 1822: A History Of The First Presbyterian Church Of Brooklyn 1822 To 2003, records the founding as being the outcome of “an informal group meeting held in 1821 at the Brooklyn Sabbath Union Sunday School … Ezra Woodhull and nine others (six men and three women) a year later petitioned the New York City Presbytery to formally organize the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn. Our church building on Cranberry Street was the first church structure in Brooklyn Heights.”

The present building at 125 Henry St. was built and dedicated in 1847, a quarter-century after the congregation’s founding. The architect was William B. Olmstead. A description of the landmark tower, also from First Church Since 1822, reads: “Its massive simplicity expressed through a battlemented tower 35 feet wide rising 90 feet above Henry Street and its great blocks of brownstone, virtually free of ornament, create a sense of unshakeable strength and confident tranquility. You can almost hear the strains of Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

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