Kick off the holiday season with the Sounds of Starkenburg concert on November 28 and you just might start a new tradition for your family and friends.
Beginning in 2004, this annual concert in the beautiful St. Martin's Church Museum in Starkenburg has become a must-do part of holiday celebrations for hundreds of people, so much so that in 2014 the organizers added a third performance to accommodate the crowds. The combination of historic church setting, stirring music, and a scenic drive in the country make this a memorable outing.
The church was built in 1873 and is on the National Register of Historic Sites. The interior is beautiful and peaceful, and the afternoon sun streaming through the stained glass windows casts a rosy glow across the pews.
The star of the show is the church's pipe organ, which was built by St. Louis organ builder J. G. Pfeffer about 150 years ago. Organist Barry Bierwirth, a Hermann native now living in St. Louis, is well known for his performances on this organ. He started playing it when he was a youngster, and he knows how to bring out the best in it.
Bierwirth will play several solo numbers as well as accompanying other performers, which include mezzo-soprano Carrie Tilly and cellist Keely Uthlaut. For the ninth year, the Handbell Choir of St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Hermann will perform. The choir rings with four octaves of brass handbells and hand chimes.
The concert includes both sacred and secular music, and the audience joins in for the sing-along.
Performances are at 1, 3:30 and 7 p.m. Nov. 28, and the doors open one hour before each performance. There is no charge for the concert, however a free-will offering will be collected. Funds raised will benefit building maintenance at Starkenburg and the St. Paul UCC Handbell Choir Fund.
Between concerts, take the opportunity to explore the church, including the small museum room behind the altar.
From 2 to 6:30 p.m., a soup supper, featuring homemade soups and desserts, is served in Valentine Hall, next to the church. A country store offering handiwork, quilts and other items also is in the hall.
Plan your trip to allow time to attend both the concert and the supper, as well as to have time to explore the grounds of the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows, a popular pilgrimage site. At dusk, lights will illuminate the grounds.
St. Martin's Parish was chartered in 1848. Since 1852, the Weisse Dame, or White Lady, statue has been on the grounds; it is currently housed in a rustic wooden chapel built in 1888. The stone St. Martin's Church was built in 1873. The stone Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows was dedicated in 1910. There is an outdoor Stations of the Cross, a sepulcher and Mount Calvary, and a Grotto of Lourdes and Mount Olivet. For the history of the buildings and the parish, visit www.historicshrine.com.
St. Martin's Church Museum is at 197 Highway P in Montgomery County. Traveling from Hermann, take Highway 19 north for about two miles to the intersection of Highways 19 and 94. Turn west on 94 and go through Rhineland and one mile more to Highway P. Turn north on P and continue two miles to Starkenburg, on the left. The church and the hall are handicap accessible.
For more information about the concert, call Brenda Van Booven at 573-236-4810 or Ruth Hulsey at 573-252-4653.
(A version of this story first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Show-Me Missouri Magazine. For more info, visit www.showmemissouri.net.)