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Beloved brother and son remembered through song
For most, Christmas is a time to gather as a family and celebrate in the company of loved ones.
But for a Langley father and daughter, celebrating the season by singing with a Trinity Western University choir, offered the unique opportunity to reconnect with a family member who’d passed away several years earlier.
On Dec. 1 UBC’s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts resonated with the voices and instruments of Trinity Western University’s choirs and orchestra, during the 10th annual Christmas at the Chan Centre concert.
Under the direction of long-time TWU Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Wes Janzen, the choirs — including the Pacific Mennonite Children’s Choir and the Langley Fine Arts School’s Children’s and Senior Choirs — performed a selection of Christmas classics to the delight of concert goers.
Among the voices in the choir loft, Langley resident and TWU education professor Ken Pudlas, made his choir debut, alongside his daughter Tamara Pudlas, who has sung with the university’s renowned Masterworks Choir for a number of years.
The father-daughter duo participated, in part, to honour their son and brother Matthew Pudlas, a TWU music and education major, who died in May, 2005.
As a TWU student, Matthew, who graduated in 2001, was involved with the choral program, serving as Wes’s teaching assistant for a number of years.
“To Matthew, Wes was not just a professor but also a mentor,” said Tamara, who teaches at H.D. Stafford Middle School in Langley. “Matthew aspired to be just like him.”
Matthew went on to earn his B.Ed. at UBC, since TWU hadn’t yet launched its professional teaching year program.
After teaching kindergarten to Grade 12 music in Washington State for a number of years, he was invited to serve as a worship pastor at Bulverde United Methodist Church in San Antonio, Tex. It was there that he found his true calling.
“Matthew’s single-minded devotion was to bring glory to God through music,” said Ken.
Tragically, just five months after he and his wife Sarah settled into their new life, Matthew suddenly succumbed to complications of a lifelong congenital blood disorder.
He never met his daughter Makenna, who was born Dec. 29, 2005.
“It was devastating,” said Ken. “It’s still difficult.”
After Matthew’s passing, Ken began attending the Christmas at the Chan Centre concerts. Not only was his daughter in the choir, but Ken felt a connection to his son in the space — Matthew’s UBC graduation was held there — and through the music.
Last year, the performance sold out before he could purchase tickets, so Tamara had a solution for this year: she encouraged her dad to sing with her in the choir.
Fall rehearsals gave Ken and Tamara an opportunity to share their memories, not only with each other, but with Wes as well.
“The purpose of music is to draw us into relationship with God,” Ken said.
“Matthew got that. It’s been a wonderful experience to sing in this choir.”
“One of the greatest blessings to me was that I had my brother with me in the music program during my entire time at TWU,” said Tamara.
“Singing with Masterworks Choir is like a family reunion. Being uplifted by excellence in music and—most importantly—celebrating the memory and legacy of my wonderful big brother, who was so passionate about music and worship, is more than I can put into words.”