Four Singers To Play Four Grand Pianos At Bell Tower Series

Melodies from four pianos on one stage will fill the sanctuary of University Christian Church at 7:30 p.m. Friday as the first performance of the third annual Bell Tower Series begins.

The Pummill family – Janet, Sallie, Amy and Julie – will present ClaviVoce as they play and sing in various combinations of solo, duet, trio and quartet presentations at the church at 2720 S. University Drive.

As perhaps the nation’s only group featuring a mother and three daughters, the Pummills will present a concert that “includes an exquisite blend of voices and piano ensemble featuring music from classical to enduring popular song,” stated a story in the September edition of the UCC Journal, the church’s newspaper.

Janet Pummill, matriarch of the musical group, said as the family has traveled across the country and internationally performing ClaviVoce more than 200 times, she has met groups featuring brothers and sisters and families that perform, but none comprised of a mother and three daughters.  

Janet said the family of performing musicians started touring with four digital grand pianos, a van and a trailer for a concert in El Paso two days before Sept. 11, 2001.

The third concert of the tour, scheduled at First Methodist Church in Midland on the day planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York, almost was cancelled, Janet said. Instead there was a huge crowd, she said, and “the audience had a very moving evening.” Laura Bush’s mother planned to attend, but was taken to a safe place that day after the terrorist attacks.

Janet said that concert was the most difficult one she and her three daughters have performed.

“Everybody was so torn up,” she said. “The music and reflection provided relief for the day. Instead of an intermission, we gave a devotional.

“It was really, really difficult, but we felt stronger by providing a service for the people.

“That’s what we do this for,” Janet said. “To help people with their sadness and sorrows and good times – that’s what music is for.”

Janet said traveling with her daughters to perform only three or four concerts a year now is one of the “most grand experiences.” The musical mother said her daughters make her feel like one of the sisters when they travel.

“They make me feel as young as they are until I look in the mirror,” Janet said laughingly.

As the Pummill family interacts with audiences, Janet said the experiences are “fun and joyful with laughter and smiles.”

“If you can take a break for a few minutes of art and music, it brings pleasure and peace to an evening. I know the girls all feel the same way.
“If we can make someone’s life better, you can’t put a dollar value on that.”

Janet said the performance by the family for the Bell Tower Series was the idea of Kyla Rosenberger, senior organist and director of music at UCC.

Rosenberger said the choral performances combined with four pianos is an unusual approach.

“You rarely hear works with four pianos,” she said. Also, “you hear about family quartets in gospel groups, perhaps a son and father, but not like this,” Rosenberger said as she described the Pummill family’s musical performances.

Joining Janet on stage will be the three Pummill sisters:

Sallie Pummill Pollack, who joined the piano faculty at the University of Central Oklahoma’s School of Music in 2009 and is director of collaborative piano. Sallie earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in collaborative piano at the Manhattan School of Music.

Amy Pummill Stewart, organist and associate director of music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City. She earned her Doctor of Worship Studies from the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies.

Julie Pummill Dean, who serves on the theory and musicology faculty and teaches Early Childhood Music at TCU. Julie and her husband are expecting a baby in five weeks.

Also joining the four musicians are Doug Pummill, who originated the idea and developed the ClaviVoce program for his wife and daughters, and Blaise J. Ferrandino, professor and division chair of music theory and composition at TCU. The Pummills’ musical family also includes the singers’ brother, Patrick, and his wife, Rebecca Pitcher.

Rosenberger said the variety of programs presented during the Bell Tower Series, also described as Sanctuary Arts for the Community, gives the community a chance to hear “two first-rate instruments – a piano and organ – a choir and a variety of local talent.”

Music presented during the series can be contemporary or from the Renaissance, Rosenberger said. The series, sponsored by the church’s music department, offers a musical experience different from the Cliburn series, she said. Contributions to support the Bell Tower Series are welcome, she said.

“Arts in our architecture and the acoustical space is beautiful,” Rosenberger said. She said the Bell Tower Series features secular and religious music that fits the church’s sanctuary space, which includes the church’s balconies that expand the performance area.

Each year the Texas Camerata, an ensemble that performs music from the Baroque and Classical periods, presents one concert in the series. Admission for that performance, scheduled on Oct. 17 this year, ranges from $5 to $20.

The public is invited to the free ClaviVoce concert, Rosenberger said, and free childcare also will be provided for the first concert of the series. Other concerts are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 and Oct. 17.

For more information about the Bell Tower Series, check www.universitychristianchurch.org or call the church office at 817-926-6631.