Singers come from near & far to honor Jim Brown

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Those who knew Jim Brown will go the distance to honor his memory.

Linda Gullufsen, who will direct the singers at a memorial for Brown Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Bowling Green, now lives in Tennessee. Others, such as Brandy Tell Mann who is now living in Youngstown, are traveling from far corners of the state. Others are coming from the East and West coasts and places in between.

Gullufsen said that one singer arrived at the first rehearsal with an apology. She’d flown in from New York, but she was not able to come to the memorial service. Was it all right if she participated in the rehearsal? She wanted to do at least that to pay tribute to her former choral director. “That speaks volumes about the man being honored,” Gullufsen said.

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Jim Brown

“He was revered enough in his life that they would make any sacrifice they could to be part of this choir,” she said.  And everyone comes with a story.

Of course, many others are coming from Bowling Green where Brown was the high school choral director from 1966 to 2004 and an active member on the arts scene.“He was Mr. Music in this community,” said Ed O’Donnell who coordinated the music for the memorial service.

Last Friday a handful of singers got together for more rehearsal on the music that will be sung.

The four pieces, three sung by the full choir, were all chosen because they were closely connected to Brown.

“Sing Me to Heaven” by Daniel Gawthrop is the most difficult piece and will be sung by alumni of Brown’s Yuletide Singers as well as alumni of the high school madrigals who sang it before. Brown had the piece performed at his mother’s and father’s funerals, Gullufsen said.

Gullufsen, who worked with Brown as the junior high choral director, said the traditional Irish tune “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” has a special place in the history of the Madrigal Singers. She remembers the madrigals performing in a freezing cold church in Estonia while on tour. They could see their breath as they performed.

“Alleluia” by Randall Thompson was “his favorite piece of choral music,” Gullufsen said. Brown learned it while on sabbatical and working with choral music legend Robert Shaw.

“Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah” is the piece he always closed his high school Christmas concerts with, inviting alumni of the choir to come on stage and others in the audience to sing.

That tradition will be followed at the service.

This is a “one-time opportunity for this community of voices to honor their mentor, teacher, friend,” Gullufsen said. “It’ll never come again.”

Mann said growing up in Bowling Green and wanting to sing Brown’s tutelage was “really pivotal.” What she learned in madrigals, choir and in shows with Brown she carried with her through college and now as a trainer for AT&T.

“He invested time, energy and thought, telling me how I messed up and how to fix it,” she said.

“I remember looking at him when we weren’t quite getting something,” she said. “The beat he would take, we really thought it was for dramatic effect. But it was really for him to make sure we were getting from him what we needed.”

She and O’Donnell agreed he was always serious and even demanding when it came to the music. But knew how to have fun.

O’Donnell knew and worked with the director for more than 30 years dating back to a Bicentennial Community Chorus in 1976. They became friends as O’Donnell joined the singers who performed at the Yuletide dinners Brown staged and took roles, large and small, in the summer musicals that Brown produced at Bowling Green State University.

“He was he was so welcoming in letting anybody becoming involved,” he said.

 

Another rehearsal is being planned for Friday. Those interested should contact JBMemorialChoir@gmail.com.

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