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Classical 101

Festival of Carols with Utopia Brass Quintet

The interior of St. Mary Church, German Village, showing the organ loft above the front door and some of the pews in the foreground
Mark Voris
/
St. Mary Catholic Church
The interior of St. Mary Catholic Church, in German Village

The joyful radiance of trumpets and horns, the fulsome resonance of a beautiful historic church and the jubilant strains of favorite carols sung but once a year.

That’s some of what you’ll experience when the Utopia Brass Quintet performs Festival of Carols Sun., Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. in St. Mary Catholic Church, in German Village.

The performance will feature holiday favorites in traditional and swing-inspired brass quintet arrangements. Organist Collin Richardson will join the quintet to lead a sing-along of beloved Christmas carols and the uplifting Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

Dr. Larry Griffin, founder of the Utopia Brass Quintet, says the concert is a chance for the community to gather and reconnect at the holidays.

“The focus is to bring people together and into a wonderful space to hear the melodies of the season,” Griffin said.

That space is the sumptuous sanctuary of the historic St. Mary Catholic Church. Upon its dedication in 1868, the church became a spiritual home to Columbus’ then growing community of German Catholics.

In addition to the visual splendor of stained-glass windows, historic statues and liturgical fixtures, ceiling frescoes and hand-painted murals, the sanctuary of St. Mary Church boasts remarkable acoustics for music.

Utopia Brass Quintet in St Mary Church, German Village
Mark Voris
/
St. Mary Catholic Church

Griffin says he selected the repertoire for the concert with the acoustics of St. Mary Church in mind.

“The sound will ring and make people feel good. We’re going to fill every inch of the space with brass and leave people with a warm feeling in their hearts,” Griffin said.

With its Dec. 18 concert, the Utopia Brass Quintet returns to the venue of its very first performance, which took place in October 2021. The ensemble is something of a reboot of Griffin’s earlier brass quintet. Griffin had performed with the Pleasant Street Brass Quintet for 35 years while serving on the music faculty of Ohio Wesleyan University. When he retired from Ohio Wesleyan, his quintet had some personnel changes and got a new name.

“Once I retired, I discovered I had time to do the things I love,” Griffin said. “So I thought, Utopia. That’s what I want. I just want Utopia. So I came up with the name Utopia Brass Quintet.”

Even as Griffin and the Utopia Brass Quintet are ramping up performances around central Ohio, they’re in the early stages of planning a concert tour of Texas. Griffin, who has made solo tours to China, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia, says he also hopes to take the quintet overseas to perform.

Meanwhile, Griffin says, the Utopia Brass are happy to come together and enjoy making music – especially this time of year.

“We’ve put together a joyful program of holiday hymns.”

The Utopia Brass Quintet performs A Festival of Carols Sun., Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. in St. Mary Catholic Church, in German Village.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.