Letters to the editor - 4/10/03

April 10, 2003

Donnie Ruth will be missed

To the editor:

As a young boy, I sat in a pew of First Christian Church as our new organist played the church's Moller organ like I had heard no other. My parents whispered to me definitely, "He's really good!" This new organist was Don Ruth. Donnie came aboard on the music staff at First Christian along with Jim Wilson, who assumed the position of choir director, and Vaughn Crowl, who was to be director of children's choirs. For me, it was a very important and fertile time. I was a young, budding musician who was totally enthralled with how these three people made music.

One Sunday morning after services, my dad took me up to the organ while Don was playing his postlude. I was amazed how our organist operated this giant "machine," making music from it. I asked if I could play the organ. "Sure," he said as he slid out from behind the instrument's three keyboards, full pedal board, and an array of buttons and knobs that, to me, resembled the cockpit of a 747 more than anything else. Donnie took me under his wing as a student shortly after that day. For seven years or so, I took weekly lessons with him at the pipe organ in the sanctuary.


As a teacher, Donnie had a great manner. He was great with kids. All of the kids in Vaughn's Crusader Choir liked to hang around the piano while he improvised. He was a great teacher for us. He explained things very simply and directly while never talking down, or condescending to us - an important thing when you're teaching kids how to make music. He had an equally good rapport with members of the adult choir, and always had his special fan club, which would stand around the organ after Sunday services listening to the postlude and bursting into a Horowitzian ovation when he finished.

As a person, he was kind, funny, and warm-hearted. He loved music and had respect for his position. Yet, he liked to joke and clown around. He had a colorful, mischievous side, which was endearing.

Yet, he was a man of faith and solemnity. He had great respect for the church and for his position. He was well-trained classically, but could do a mean jazz riff. He was a very caring individual who always had time to give you a smile, a hello and a listen. All of these characteristics permeated his work with members of the choirs, music and church staffs, and congregation. An event at First Christian was never complete without Donnie - whether it be him at the Moller on Sunday mornings, his Christmas Eve recitals, his inspiring solo recital, accompanying choir rehearsals on Wednesday evenings, at retreat at Shrine Mont, playing the piano at various church functions, dinners and parties.

All of us who knew Donnie have our own memories. These are just a quick few of my own. However, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that while Donnie's playing was an indispensable part of life at First Christian, it was Donnie himself - his presence, and his loving personality, which was, and always will be an ever-important part of the church.

Daniel Sutton
Berlin, Germany

(Editor's note: The Herald-Mail is re-running this letter because when it was first published on April 8, the signature printed was that of his mother, Jane L. Sutton of Waynesboro, Pa., who did not write it, but who submitted it on her son's behalf.)

Why I took my children to see 'Les Miserables'

To the editor:

Ah "Les Miserables" That dreadful, immoral play now being produced at Williamsport High School under the direction of Ruth Ridenour. Even though many student groups have performed it across the United States, we are creating a stir here in Washington County due to its content and message.

Obviously, I did not and still don't perceive the ill-gotten message that some people believe it portrays. I have seen "Les Miserables" on Broadway four timesnot because I am that densebut because it happens to be one of my favorite shows and one of the most beautiful musicals ever written.

I have taken my mother and my three children to see it. My youngest son was even a middle-school student at the time and my children never snickered or referred to the musical as being naughty. On the contrary, my children fell in love with the music, which prompted me to buy the soundtrack so we could listen and sing along in the car. One of my fondest memories of my annual New York trip is seeing this musical for the first time with two close friends.

We sat in awe and were speechless through the whole show and could only turn to each other at the end and exclaim, "Wow!" It literally took our breath away.

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