Cantata honors ‘Mr. B’

KAREN BITNER, Special to the Echo Pilot

The most important musician at this year’s Old Home Week cantata may well have been one who was not physically present. The cantata, which played twice to standing-room-only crowds at the Greencastle-Antrim High School auditorium Sunday evening, Aug. 4, was a tribute to former music teacher Richard Besecker, who died following the last OHW in 2010.

With the fitting title “The Torch Is Passed,” the cantata featured over 100 musicians, singers, instrumentalists and crew and included many of Besecker’s former students. The beloved teacher, known as “Mr. B,” taught music in the Greencastle-Antrim School District in addition to giving private lessons at his Baltimore Street home for 50 years. He also wrote music, and one of his original Christmas hymns, entitled “Do You Know the Love of Christmas?” was included in the program.

Diana Stottlemyer, one of Besecker’s last students, spoke about his contributions to Greencastle-Antrim. She is the third generation in her family to receive music lessons from him.

Besecker also directed the Old Home Week cantatas for many years.

Directed by Niki Kauffman, the cantata included Mandy Stottlemyer as Youth Ensemble Director, Saundra Wingert as Tribute Ensemble Director, and Ken Shockey as Rehearsal Accompanist. Aaron Ziebarth narrated the program.

During a rousing salute to the Armed Forces, the audience sang along. Members of the military branches stood and were applauded as their respective armed forces anthems were played.

The audience also applauded Besecker’s family, who was in attendance. The evening celebrated the life of a man dedicated to music and to community, and who passed the torch of faith by a life of faithfulness. In every way he could,

“Mr. B” set the life of Greencastle-Antrim to music.