Bethel musicians impact Polish audience

September 17, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Bethel Jazz Band and Bethel Choir travel to Poland to share their music and their faith

Culture | Michael Urch

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The Bethel Choir sings in front of a full audience in a Polish church. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Matthias Frank Schmidt

Recently, a former Minnesotan youth pastor Richard Dietrich visited Poland, and before returning home researched his wife’s family tree. Surprisingly, he discovered that he had married into a long lost Von Promintz family of royalty, subsequently inheriting multiple properties throughout Poland and bestowing a title: In His Service Richard Dietrich of the Family Von Promnitz of the Free State of Pless, Count.

The Count was asked to bring musicians to Poland in the tradition of his family. Seeing this as an opportunity for ministry, he has used his properties as a platform for bringing Christian musicians to Poland. This summer, the Bethel Choir and Jazz Orchestra each toured through Poland for the Von Promnitz family.

The Jazz Orchestra traveled around the country to bring a concert mix of big band jazz, jazz combo and pop rock to Polishcrowds. 15 musicians, a few helping hands and a handful of volunteers, whose sole purpose was to interact and minister to the audience, went on the 13-day trip.

Playing gigs anywhere from pubs to cathedrals, the jazz group traveled throughout Poland. “The Count has a really great ministry going on there, and God used the ministry to draw a crowd,” saxophonist Ben Cline said.

Justin Feland, a Bethel senior and pop rock musician, enjoyed sharing his music with the people of Poland, and also thought highly of the Count. “He is using his properties as platforms to preach the gospel,” he said.

The Jason Harms Sextet provided the jazz combo music, and the Bethel Jazz Orchestra played big band sets. Saxophonist Will Lee hoped “that the aroma of Christ would be among us as we play our music.”

Being a fairly small group, the jazz orchestra members were also able to spend time with the Polish people, at times handing out DVDs about Christ or interacting with students.

The choir tour happened simultaneously and independently. It was of a slightly different flavor, with nearly all concerts being in Polish Cathedrals. The culture in Poland is largely Catholic, and there is a high demand for choral music. Singing “Ave Maria” and works by 21st century Polish composer Penderecki drew crowds into the churches—a perfect fit for a group of 67 Bethel singers.

Cathedrals are known for having outstanding acoustics for choirs. When Will Lee attended one of their concerts, he heard a Polish man say, “the choir is singing with the saints."

In a similar manner, Leah Hatzung, choir member, had a Polish woman approach her after a concert, greet her with a hug, cup Leah’s face in her hands and say, “Hallelujah,” even though they did not share a language.

“We were giving glory to God, and someone saw that and connected,” Hatzung said.

Dennis Port, choir director, was very proud of the choir’s performance in Poland and said the trip was extremely gratifying for him. “What we are able to accomplish with our students is incredible,” he said.

The connection to the Count’s ministry seemed to enhance the trip for the choir as well. “We always feel that our singing is ministry, but this had such a specific mission—the spiritual dynamic cannot be moved,” Port explained.

The choir and jazz orchestra are now back on Bethel’s campus and will soon be rehearsing. Keep a lookout for upcoming concerts and your ears open when passing through the CC lounge after 4:00 p.m. There may be music nearby.

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