If you build it, they will come.
Well, she didn't exactly build it, but Carole Romp assembled it, and boy did they come.
The Sandusky State Theatre was nearly packed Sunday afternoon for the first Lake Erie Choral Festival.
With the help of the Wightman-Wieber Charitable Foundation, Romp made her and her late husband's dream of uniting the area's musical talent a reality.
"We saw the talent in this area is just fabulous. We just thought that bringing all these voices together would just be a thrilling experience," Romp said.
More than 150 choristers and members of the Chamber Orchestra of the Firelands Symphony performed John Rutter's "Requiem" under the direction of Anton Armstrong.
Chorus member Gwendolyn Ohlemacher, 15, was the soloist during "Requiem."
Armstrong is a professor of music and the director of the choir at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. While he usually doesn't do inaugural events, Armstrong credited Romp's persistence and influence as the reason for his direction.
The chorus had 10 hours of practice before Armstrong arrived and 12 hours of "intensive workshop instruction" under Armstrong.
The second part of the concert consisted of five traditional spirituals.
Armstrong said he picked the songs based on what he thought would touch the human spirit and celebrate life.
"African-American slave songs, these spirituals speak to that existence far worse than any of us will ever know," he said. "These people upon whose pain and labor and toil we now enjoy the fruits of this country. These songs spoke to a belief in a higher creator."
He said the songs should serve as an inspiration to people because they were represent those who were faced with great adversity but didn't succumb.
The chorus performed "Amazing Grace," "Keep Your Lamps," "True Light," "Oh, That Bleeding Lamb" and "Ride On, King Jesus."
Scott Nave played congo drums, and Arlene Strohl, Katie Fisher and Chris Straub sang solos.
The concert concluded with a standing ovation and whistles from those in attendance.
Armstrong said the sheer presence of the crowd spoke to the values of the community, and he encouraged audience members to remember the importance of the arts.
"Don't be that community that leaves the arts out, that thinks it's a frivolous extra," he said.
He added that music has the power to unite a community.