Highlands Presbyterian Church on Smoky Row Road is the home of a vibrant worship community augmented by a concert series.
A trip to the church on a recent Sunday afternoon was a nice cure for cabin fever. An enthusiastic crowd enjoyed high-quality music-making.
Many places of worship host concerts designed to give pleasure and to enhance the membership.
At Highlands, the effort to grow the congregation through music embraces a thriving church choir, bell ringer association and organist, plus the concert series.
"Our series has been around since 2009," says Jim Rennie of the church’s music committee. Rennie credits church member Hector Garcia as the "brainchild of Highlands concerts."
An attorney by profession with an advanced degree in piano from Indiana University, Garcia has been a member of Highlands for 10 years.
Why a concert series?
"I started the concert series because I wanted to play six of the Beethoven piano sonatas," Garcia says. "I asked the church if I could use the sanctuary. Eventually, others came and said, 'Oh, I have something I’d like to play.' That’s how the series was born."
This season, Highlands presents a Scottish heritage program, a recital by tenor Geoffrey Gear, the new director of Highlands Senior Choir and the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra conducted by Luis Biava.
Garcia has been a regular on the concert stage, which draws a varied audience.
"We get a weird combination," Garcia says, "people who live near the church, church members or people who hear about the concerts by word of mouth. Often the audiences are driven by who is playing. I can tell you that new music does very well. People like Mary Davis, David Thomas and Michael Rene Torres appear and present great repertoire. People come from Pittsburgh and West Virginia and all over Ohio.
"Recently we presented UCelli, the cello ensemble from OSU," Garcia continues. "The work by Mark Lomax ('Four Women') is the type of music that stirs you and affects you, not necessarily in a comfortable way. Make sure you seek it out. ... The world premiere they played, by Richard Jordan Smoot, was truly beautiful too."
Side note: Garcia is the soloist in Haydn's D Major piano concerto – which he calls "a total anti-depressant piece of music" – with the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra and Luis Biava, Nov. 4 at Ascension Lutheran Church. Just sayin'.
Here's the Highlands Presbyterian Church concert series current season:
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2 p.m.
Highlands celebrates its 40th anniversary with a Scottish heritage program, featuring bagpipes and drums, plus commentary by pastor emeritus Rev. Dr. Philip Ferguson about the history of the church, Presbyterianism and Scotland.
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m.
Highlands presents a recital by tenor Geoffrey Gear, the new Senior Choir director.
Sunday, Dec. 2, 8 p.m.
Luis Biava conducts the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra.
Sunday, Dec. 9, 2 p.m.
Highlands presents Ad Sinistra, a lecture-recital on music for piano, left hand only, by composer Leopold Godowsky. Pianist Dr. Nicholas Ross will also play left-handed piano music written for him.