I was so delighted to learn that Maestro Guzman will highlight the symphony’s “Season of Hope” with music for organ and strings at First United Methodist Church this May. Nothing could be more apropos. The news brought with it a flood of musical childhood reminiscences – memories of the Corpus Christi Symphony at First Methodist 51 years ago. The occasion was “A Poulenc Festival” on Sunday, March 15, 1970.
Julie Hall returned from Texas Christian University to sing Poulenc’s Gloria for Soprano Solo, Mixed Choir, and Orchestra, and Leslie P. Peart, then director of music at First Church, played the Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Tympani, both with Ronald Shirey at the podium. Hall was backed by 129 singers from the combined choirs of Del Mar College, First United Methodist, The Corpus Christi Chorale, and the Schola Cantorum. The orchestra comprised 42 string, woodwind, and brass players, plus tympany and harp. I am not certain, but I suspect it was the first time the symphony played at the Church. How wonderful that the orchestra is returning, and this time with Maestro Guzman at the organ!
Sometime after the Poulenc Festival, world-famous E. Power Biggs played the last major concert of his life there with the CC symphony. During his tenure in Corpus Christi, Mr. Peart initiated the church-favorite Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols, directed the Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors three times, conducted an organ concert series bringing artists such as Frederick Swann, Virgil Fox, and Marie-Madeline Duruflé to the city, and offered “Pops, Pipes, and Peart,” a series of pure dancing-in-the-aisles fun designed to, “make people love the organ!” In May of 1970, Mr. Peart was responsible for increasing the size of the organ from 32 to 43 ranks with the installation of the Thomas Massie Boyd III Memorial Organ and Boyd Trumpette en Chamade, a true labor of love that involved many members of the congregation and members of the Boyd and Peart families.
Mr. Peart passed away in February of 2020, leaving behind him a glorious musical legacy. His last concert was a Christmas program on the practice organ in his apartment at Trinity Towers. In addition to Corpus Christi, he held positions at churches and temples large and small in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio; organizing, directing, and performing symphonic works for organ, choral festivals, and concert series for a variety of audiences everywhere he went – including U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood in the 1950s. He designed and oversaw the finishing of 36 M. P. Möller pipe organs across Texas and facilitated more than 20 English organ tours for musicians from Australia, the U.S., and Canada. I am proud of Mr. Peart’s legacy — my father’s legacy — and I cannot wait to hear Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Tympani again!
— Leslie W. Peart