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Lanie Houghtaling's family. Percy is the older child.

PBS 39 to broadcast MSO’s A Family Portrait

Tyler Houghtaling

Family letters discovered after the death of a loved one spoke of war, of romance, of childhood, of death too young.  The writers’ descendant, a mezzo-soprano, shared them with her friend, a composer who teaches at Manchester University.

A Family Portrait premiered last fall at Manchester’s Cordier Auditorium with two featured soloists – Daniel Belcher, a Grammy-winning, internationally acclaimed operatic baritone, and Judy Marlett, who found the letters.

This summer, the public television station in Fort Wayne will broadcast the performance twice. PBS 39 will air the 90-minute program at 2:30 p.m. July 8 and 1 p.m. Aug. 26. 

A professor of music at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, Marlett shared a Civil War-era family letter with Dr. Debra Lynn, director of choral organizations and voice study at Manchester. Intrigued, then they examined a trunk full of letters and found a narrative that called to them. Lynn, a Civil War buff who loves writing for musicians she knows personally, was commissioned to compose the oratorio.

It is based on late 19th-century letters written by three of Marlett’s relatives from New York State: Tyler Houghtaling was a Union soldier; Lanie Houghtaling died in her early 20s leaving two young children; and Percy Houghtaling was Lanie’s child and Marlett’s grandfather.

Two MU choirs and the Fairfield, Northfield and Warsaw high school choirs also took part. Members of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic joined them on stage, as did readers in period garb who were the voices of the letter writers.

The MSO is under the direction of MU’s Scott Humphries, who conducted pieces related to the theme of the evening, and Lynn conducted A Family Portrait.

The symphony will launch its 80th season Oct. 29 with The Universe at an Exhibition: A Science and Symphony Event

About Manchester University
Manchester University, with campuses in North Manchester and Fort Wayne, Ind., offers more than 60 areas of academic study to nearly 1,600 students in undergraduate programs, a Master of Athletic Training, a Master of Pharmacogenomics and a four-year professional Doctor of Pharmacy. It has students from 20 nations and is home to the world's first undergraduate peace studies program, established in 1948. Learn more about the private, northern Indiana school at www.manchester.edu.

June 2018