Church choirs across the country, as well as distant venues such as Fiji, sing sacred songs with the help of a small business located near the eastern end of Old Henderson Road in Northwest Columbus.

Beckenhorst Press Inc. is one of only about 10 publishers of sacred choral music in the United States, according to company President Jeffrey D. Hamm.

"Our business is seasonal," said Brian Babcock, sales manager. "This is our biggest selling time."

It's around now, Babcock said, that choir conductors are ordering sheet music for fall and even Christmas performances and services.

Hamm and Babcock have both been with Beckenhorst Press for more than three decades. They were hired by longtime Clintonville resident John Ness Beck, a prolific composer of choral music and one of the founders of the firm.

"Beckenhorst Press was founded by two talented composers, John Ness Beck and John Tatgenhorst," according to the company's website. "At the time, John Beck owned a retail sheet music establishment and was writing principally choral music while John Tatgenhorst was engaged in various musical pursuits. The initial intent was to publish choral, band and orchestra music, with John Beck focusing on choral music and John Tatgenhorst directing his efforts toward instrumental works. The first choral piece, 'The Young Lions,' by John Beck, was published in 1972. The first instrumental pieces appeared in 1973."

The company, its name a conjoining of the last names of the cofounders, became Beck's sole responsibility shortly after 1973 when Tatgenhorst left "to pursue other musical endeavors," the site stated. Beck, a native of Warren who majored in English at Ohio State University, formally incorporated the company in 1981.

Under his leadership and to this day, the bulk of what Beckenhorst Press turns out is sacred music, along with some arrangements for hand bell choirs, Babcock said.

The concentration is on traditional sacred choral pieces, not contemporary praise music, according to Hamm.

"We're kind of in that middle area," he added. "That was John's interest."

Most of the choirs purchasing from Beckenhorst Press are Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, but occasionally a Catholic church will place orders, Hamm said.

With the advent of the Internet, something Beck never envisioned, choirs from Eastern and Western Europe can make inquiries about sheeting music, Babcock said

"We had something from Fiji the other day," he said.

Beckenhorst Press has published about 3,000 titles, and rarely lets any of its works go out of print, Babcock said.

"When we were hired by John Beck, it was very exciting," Hamm said. "He was such a great man, extremely talented."

"He was a real talented man," Babcock added, noting that Beck was also an actor in local theater groups.

Beck was diagnosed with terminal lung and brain cancer in February 1987.

"Mr. Beck immediately began making plans for the continuation of Beckenhorst Press," according to the website.

Beck, who died June 25, 1987, also launched a foundation a few months earlier.

"It recognizes outstanding achievement in choral composition and arrangement of traditional church music, enhances and furthers the careers, study, education and experience of promising composers and arrangers, and promotes and stimulates the learning of choral composition and traditional church music," according to the website of the nonprofit organization, which is based in Marquette, Michigan.

Hamm said he, Babcock and the handful of other employees at the firm "feel the responsibility of maintaining his legacy."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1