Old church hosts concert of classic tunes

<I>NANCY BUTTERFIELD photo</I><BR>Soprano Ellaina Lewis, baritone Glenn Guhr and accompanist Sheila Bristow received a standing ovation Sunday after a performance at the 100-year-old Deep River Church

DEEP RIVER - The beautiful little church at Deep River was rocked to its 100-year-old rafters Sunday, Aug. 29, when Ellaina Lewis and Glenn Guhr, accompanied by Sheila Bristow, performed a variety of classical and contemporary numbers.

All the performers are from the Seattle area and were invited to Deep River to kick off a tour of Seattle-area churches by Naselle-area resident Krist Novoselic, who also provided fresh-pressed cider during the intermission.

Guhr, a baritone, has performed for years in musicals, plays, films and operas in the Northwest. He began Sunday's concert with selections by Tchaikovsky as well as Maurice Ravel and Gerald Finzi.

Lewis, a soprano who came to Seattle seven years ago, is a versatile performer, combining her love of singing with an interest in dance. She recently played the title role in Garrett Fisher's opera "Sally Hemmings," the story of the slave mistress of Thomas Jefferson at On the Board's Northwest New Works Festival. On Sunday she sang pieces by Sergei Rachmaninov and Claude Debussy.

The two, accompanied by Bristow on a piano provided by Novoselic, teamed up for a medley of show tunes by George Gershwin and, after an intermission, performed three duets from "Rigoletto" by Giuseppe Verdi.

The Deep River Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is on the Registry of National Historic Landmarks, is being gradually restored. Its new roof was completed last week after a summer-long series of vespers services. Plans are in the works for a new coat of paint and steeple repairs as well as the construction of a replica of the old outhouse that served the church for many years. The building has no electricity or water, and a small wood stove stands at the back of the church.

According to "Deep River and Its Finns," published by the Finnish-American Historical Society of the West in 1997, plans for the church building began in 1898. Erik Maunula donated a parcel of land near the Deep River Cemetery in 1900, and the church was the first organized Evangelical Lutheran Church in the area.

The contract for building the church was given to Kaarlo Wahlroos for $275. Members of the congregation went to the long-disappeared town of Chetlo Harbor at the mouth of the Naselle River for materials. According to the article, the town was failing and structures were being sold for 50 cents apiece. A two-story building, originally intended as a rooming house and saloon was purchased for $2.50, torn town and loaded on scows that were towed as far upriver as possible, then hauled to the site by teams of horses.

Clergy from the Astoria congregation came to Deep River once a month to hold services.

According to Karen Bertroch, community resource director for the Wahkiakum County Community Foundation, about $25,000 has been raised for work on the church - from the Kinsman Foundation in Portland, the Wahkiakum County Foundation, and donations from descendants of old-time church members who live as far away as Virginia and California. "It's been a year-long effort," she said.

The church windows were open Sunday, and a late-summer breeze cooled the 50-some people assembled to hear the powerful voices of Lewis and Guhr. The death scene from "Rigoletto" brought tears to the cheeks of an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

After a standing ovation by the audience, the three performed what Guhr called "a special offering" - a rendition of a spiritual - "Deep River."

Sunday's concert was for a "tryout audience," Guhr said. The group will be performing at churches in Issaquah, Edmonds and Seattle during the next two months.

The church is a "great venue for live music," Novoselic - former bass player for the Seattle grunge band Nirvana - said after the concert.

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