Mayflower Congregational Church welcomes Grand Rapids Symphony for Sacred Dimensions series

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI, March 1, 2018 – French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was at the artistic height of his career in 1886, the same year he wrote his best-loved work, The Carnival of the Animals, when he composed his Symphony No. 3. Though he would live another 35 years and continue to compose, he knew his “Organ” Symphony, packed with virtuoso passages for keyboard, brilliant orchestration, and a big, lush, romantic sound, would be his final work for orchestra in that form.

“I gave everything to it I was able to give,” Saint-Saëns said. “What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.”

Grand Rapids Symphony performs Saint-Saëns’ powerful Symphony No. 3 with Organ at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 10, in Mayflower Congregational Church. Jonathan Tuuk, organist and Director of Music at Mayflower Church, who is retiring in June, will join the Grand Rapids Symphony

Associate Conductor John Varineau also will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in Mendelssohn’s “Hymn of Praise” Symphony No. 2, featuring the Mayflower Congregational Church Chancel Choir directed by Mark Webb. It’s best known today for the well-known musical setting of the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God.”

Admission is free for the performance in the church located at 2345 Robinson Road in Grand Rapids.

Saint-Saëns titled his Third Symphony “Symphony with Organ” because the organ appears in only two of the four movements. Like many well-known works of classical music, excerpts have crept into pop culture. The main theme of the Maestoso movement was used as the main theme for the 1995 film Babe and its sequel Babe: Pig in the City.

One of Grand Rapids most prominent organists, Jonathan Tuuk has performed many times with the Grand Rapids Symphony including the “Organ” Symphony No. 3, equipped with an electronic organ, in DeVos Performance Hall. This concert, however, will make use of Mayflower’s massive, five-manual Tellers-Lauck Pipe Organ. Originally built in 1968 by the Tellers Organ Company of Erie, Pennsylvania, it was rebuilt and expanded in 1998 by Lauck Pipe Organ Company of Otsego. In the past 20 years it has since undergone further modifications to encompass 94 ranks spread over five keyboards plus pedals.

Tuuk, a graduate of Calvin College, is a published composer and concert artist who has performed throughout Europe and the United States. He has performed in the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and appeared as a soloist at the University of Michigan Organ Conference. With the Grand Rapids Symphony, he has performed for former music directors Catherine Comet and David Lockington.

Mendelssohn’s “Lobgesang” or “Hymn of Praise” for soloists, chorus and orchestra is a cross between a symphony and a cantata. Following Mendelssohn’s death, it was published as his Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, though the composer did not designate it as such. Mendelssohn did not compose the melody for “Now Thank We All Our God,” but his harmonization of it is the familiar version we hear today.

The 10-movement work will include solo performances by sopranos Kristen Burghart, Mary Tuuk and by tenor William E. Potts.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which was held in March 2017 and returns in 2019.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.