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Sunnyside Reformed Church

Shenton, Shields, Spoletini & Wade

Perform At The Sunnyside Reformed Church

February 5, 2011 / Sunnyside / Queens Buzz. Continued / If necessary, use the search function to find story introduction.

Guest Musicians Are Also Queens Residents

opera in queensI had the good fortune to listen to an operatic performance by Baritone Giuseppe Spoletini, Broadway musicals by vocalist Erin Shields and jazz by composer, pianist and violinist David Shenton and bassist Mark Wade. All of these musicians have made Sunnyside their home, which given their talent, lends support to the borough reclaiming its title as the home of jazz, or perhaps more specifically, the home of jazz, opera and broadway musicals. In the photo to your right, from left to right are: David Shenton, Erin Shields, Giuseppe Spoletini and Mark Wade.

David, Erin and Mark had performed at the LIC Jazz Festival in Spring of 2010 at the Secret Theatre in LIC, so I was familiar with their work. David was once an Abbey Road studio musician [of Beatles fame], Erin is a Broadway Musical / Metropolitan Opera quality vocalist and Mark is a talented bassist. This was my first opportunity to listen to Giuseppe, who is an operatic baritone.

Opera, Broadway Musicals & Jazz,

As I mentioned in the introduction, the program included a mix of Italian opera, Broadway Musicals and classical jazz. The program included a number original arrangements / compositions by David Shenton. When I entered the church concert hall, Giuseppe was belting out the Figaro Aria, one of the most popular Italian operas, filling the large room with his rich baritone voice. Photo of Giuseppe singing Figaro Aria is shown in the story introduction.

live jazz in queensBaritone Guiseppe Spoletini Sings Figaro Aria

The acoustics of the church accommodated his vocal performance, allowing us to absorb the passion of a real Italian opera. As he finished to thunderous applause, I thought … wow, it's amazing that this is being performed right here in the heart of Sunnyside. The inside of the sanctuary of the Sunnyside Reformed Church is shown to the right.

The Rossini aria was followed by another solo by Giuseppe, a solo by Erin and a duet by both.

Erin Shields - Vocal Virtuoso

erin shields vocalist nycThen came Erin’s heart rendering performance of My Funny Valentine, a composition by Shenton that mixes a Rodgers & Hart tune with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Erin has a beautiful voice, with a range that goes well beyond soprano. What makes listening to her special is absorbing the full force of the emotional feeling that resonates through her vocal chords. This song seemed to touch my emotional core, as her voice vibrated through the chamber, leaving nobody unaffected. Erin is shown in the photo to your left singing My Funny Valentine.

paul maringelli sunnysideBix Beiderbecke aka Paul Maringelli In Attendance

At the intermission I ran into Paul Maringelli, of Bix Beiderbecke concert fame, who was in attendance at the concert. He informed me that David Shenton has also been the pianist at the annual Bix Beiderbecke concert. Paul is shown to the left in the photo to the right.

Mark Wade Bassist / David Shenton Jazz Pianist

jazz bassist mark wade sunnysideAfter the break David and Mark Wade played two jazz pieces. Mark strummed the bass like a Charles Mingus, while David played the piano like Tommy Flanagan. Their performance took me back decades to listening to many of the old time New Orleans jazz and Chicago blues players. Mark is shown playing the bass in the photo to your left. And David Shenton is shown playing piano and violine in the photo to your right.

David also did an interesting duet / solo where he plays both the david shenton pianistpiano and violin simultaneously. It was truly an instrumental feat. At the end of David’s performance, and at the end of several of the performances mentioned above, the crowd gave standing ovations.

We have web presences for three of the four performers. Click here for David Shenton, Erin Shields and Guiseppe Spoletini.


Sunnyside Reformed Church

History Of Century Old Church & Dutch Settlers

Before the performance I had the opportunity to speak with reverend neil a margetson sunnysideReverend Neil A. Margetson, pastor of the Sunnyside Reformed Church [shown in the photo to your left]. He provided me with information about the church, its beliefs, its congregation and the role of its sponsorship of these cultural performances in Sunnyside. I also did a bit of my own research to round out the report that follows.

The Reformed Church Of America

The Sunnyside Reformed Church is one of 24 Reformed Churches of America [RCA] located in Queens. The total American population of RCA members is between 250,000 and 500,000; nearly all of which is located in communities primarily along the east coast and in pockets in the Midwest.

Dutch And French Immigrants 1600 - 1800

These RCA congregations in these two geographies [east coast / Midwest] generally represent two separate waves of immigrants – the first being Dutch in the 1600’s and the second being French in the 1800’s. The Sunnyside congregation currently includes about 50 members and 50 friends and welcomes non-parishoners.

Calvinist Theology - Christianity At The Core

I queried the pastor about the beliefs held by the Sunnyside Reformed Church Of dutch religion in queensAmerica [RCA]. He said that generally the RCA theology is similar to Lutheranism, both of which are branches of the Christian religion. He reminded me that Calvin [a Frenchman who lived in Geneva, Switzerland] followed Luther in rebelling against the Catholic papacy in the 1500’s.

Members of the Dutch Reformed Church generally believe in one god [monotheists], they believe that Jesus is “fully human and fully divine” [which is similar to, but not the same as, believing that Jesus in the son god], they believe in the Holy Trinity, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the Ten Commandments. They also believe in heaven and hell, although there’s a belief in predestination which differs from Catholicism. The altar at the Sunnyside Reformed Church is shown in the photo to your left.

Differences In Beliefs – RCA & Catholicism

The Reformed Church of America [RCA] differs from Catholicism in that, like Lutherans, they don’t have ties to the papacy, they don’t believe in transubstantiation [this is the Catholic belief that the bread and wine at mass become the body and blood of Jesus], the role of the pastors differ [Dutch Reformed Church pastors may marry and have children], and they believe that “the Bible is a living document that responds to the needs that we bring to it”.

Perhaps the fundamental difference between the religions is more philosophical than theological. Based on what Reverend Margutson told me and a bit of research I did following the visit, it seems that Calvinists distinguish between the spiritual being and the human being. With regard to the human being, the church believes we can make a difference. With regard to the spiritual world, things are in some sense predestined. I'm not sure I have this completely right, but I'll edit this report as I learn more.

Sunnyside Reformed Church Services

Sunday services are held at 11 am and last about an hour. So I inquired as to the differences in the service at the Dutch Reformed Church versus Catholicism. Reverend Margetson handed me a church bulletin from a week ago, and then walked me through it. The structure of both services appear to be similar, but not exactly the same. In both services there’s music, readings, an offering and a benediction. Sunday masses are followed by a coffee hour, which sometimes last until 3 pm.

Sunnyside Reformed – Cultural Performances

So I asked the reverend why the Sunnyside RCA was hosting the concert this evening and why it had hosted one, featuring the Carol Sudhalter Band in the fall of 2010. He classical jazz violinists queenssaid it was part of the church’s community outreach programming, to encourage people to interact with the church as one of Sunnyside’s religious & cultural centers.

Both musical performances came about through serendipitous conversations between various members of the church and the performers. The church is interested in featuring talented local musicians and the reverend indicated the church was also working on the possibility of including a visual arts venue.

Coming up the second week of May is Evan Mazunik, who is a jazz pianist who plays in a local band. And in July there will be a Gospel Show by Vince Anderson and the Love Choir. David Shenton, violinist, is shown performing at the Sunnyside Reformed Church.

Sunnyside Reformed Church

sunnyside reformed churchThe Sunnyside Reformed Church is located at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 48th Street. The church was formed in 1896 and the building was erected around the same time. The original structure still exists as the offices and Fellowship Hall which is through the entrance to your right in the photo on your left.

The church was added to later in 1955 when they erected the Sanctuary, which is where services and the cultural performances are held [see entrance to left in the photo to your left]. There’s also a very open large downstairs floor some of which is shown in the photo below.

Daycare Services In Sunnyside - RCA

The Sunnyside Reformed Church of American also provides daycare services Monday through Friday which are available to the public for set fees. There are currently 24 families registered in this program, but many of more than one child.

Social Services In Sunnyside - RCA

sunnyside reformed church basementAdditionally, in the evenings, on alternate nights, the church hosts AA [Alcoholics Anonymous], NA [Narcotics Anonymous] and OA [Over Eaters Anonymous] meetings in the church basement. A photo of the basement is shown to your right, during the intermission of a cultual program.

The reverend said the church recently joined a group called EQUAL which stands for Empowering Queens United in Action Leadership. The primary purpose of this group is to correct local problems like fixing street lights, clearing sewage / drainage and correcting traffic management on corners where there is a high incidence of accidents.

As mentioned previously, the church dates back over 100 years and is located on the corner of 48th Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside. Click this link to go to the website of Sunnyside Reformed Church. Special thanks to Reverend Neil A. Margetson for his hospitality and to Rob McKay for arranging the meeting and press pass.


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