Members of St. John’s Episcopal Church on Richmond Street lost their beloved music director, Paul Roberts Bartsch, suddenly in December. Still feeling the loss, a committee was formed to bring his works to life. “A Musical Tribute to the Life and Musical Works of Paul R. Bartsch” will be held at St. John’s on Sunday, May 21 at 4 p.m. The tribute will take place in the nave of the church, with a recep
tion to follow in the Parish Hall. Ben Miller will serve as musical director.
“St. John’s was greatly blessed when Paul became the director of music on April 2, 2005,” committee member Arlene Lotti said. “He was a very talented, kind, and fun person. Not just an organist and piano player, he was the composer of 11 book musicals, one opera, and one play with his music.”
Bartsch received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Massachusetts. He also completed his residence requirement for his doctor of Ph.D. in music education. Among his many awards was the Operetta Guild Most Valuable Member award four times from 1962 to 1965.
Bartsch was composer of books and music for, most notably the TAM Repertory Theatre, the Fort Lee Playhouse, and Una Harrison and her children’s theater group. He also accompanied Harrison on her solo performances. There were several other recipients of his works, and in 2012, the last noted one was “One Little Wish,” book and lyrics by Colin S. Crowley.
“I met Paul when I directed a musical at Fort Lee,” Harrison said. “He became a dear friend to my family and me for forty years and a talented colleague in our cabaret and family musical theatre productions. Paul lives on in our ‘Dickens of a Christmas,’ ‘Oliver with a Twist,’ ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers.’ and many more plays where he wrote his beautiful music to my book and lyrics. I miss him, and will always bear his friendship in my heart.”
The musical tribute will include his music at St. John’s, his music on Broadway, and his music in the children’s theater.
All will be sharing memories. “We are truly blessed to have had him at St. John’s all these years,” Lotti said. “He is greatly missed. On the 21st of May, the choirs of St. John’s, soloists, and trios will perform music either composed or arranged by Paul Bartsch. Please join us for this celebration of a gifted person who shared his many talents with us.”