“A Child’s Christmas,” a holiday concert recalling the innocence and wonder of Christmas as seen through a child’s eyes and ears, will be performed Dec. 15 and 16 by the Great River Chorale and its musical guests at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Cloud.
The concert will include traditional Christmas carols, new music and familiar songs for audiences of all ages to sing along to. The performance is centered around a musical fable featuring Brother Heinrich, a 14th century monk, and Sigismund, a donkey that “sings” in the abbey choir.
The chorale’s musical guests include the Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota’s Mixed Chorale and the Concert Choir of the St. Cloud State University Cantabile Girls’ Choir program.
A total of 152 people will perform in the concert, including two guest instrumentalists, a narrator, three accompanists and three ensembles. The ensembles include 42 GRC, 68 YCCM and 36 Cantabile performers.
The cast of the chorale’s 12th annual holiday concert includes Brother Paul-Vincent Niebauer of St. John’s Abbey as the narrator. Niebauer has undergraduate and graduate degrees in theater and is the theater director at St. John’s Preparatory School.
Among the many performers of the GRC are Sartell residents Joe Hill, Maureen Fox-Meyer, Lori Satterness and Holli Zieske. Also performing are St. Joseph residents Nina Lasceski, Courtney Kroska and Ethan Wittrock.
Hill said he feels privileged to be singing with GRC.
“It has been a rekindled joy to be able to sing with a wonderfully talented community of musicians,” Hill said. “My children have been involved in YCCM, Cantabile and the choral program at Sartell High School. They nudged me to try out for GRC after being away from music performance for many years. The Christmas concert is a remarkable event as it showcases the voices of choirs representing multiple generations celebrating the amazing story of Christmas. I was inspired after attending the GRC Christmas concert in 2010 and (am) greatly privileged to now be a part of the experience.”
Holli Zieske, another Sartell resident, is in her second year of singing with the GRC.
“Upon moving to Sartell from out of state, I was thrilled to find and then be a part of such a fine chorale group right in my own community,” Zieske said. “During the Christmas season, I am especially excited about singing with the GRC because in my opinion, music brings the season of Christmas to life. I have no doubt members of this community will be blessed by experiencing “A Child’s Christmas” as I am in being able to sing in this concert.”
St. Joseph resident Ethan Wittrock has been a member of the GRC for three years. Wittrock said he believes music helps communities to grow.
“We are very fortunate in central Minnesota that our community has such a diverse range of ages and experiences among its many music ensembles,” Wittrock said. “I am especially grateful to be part of our choir as it is an inter-generational blend of dedicated musicians and loyal enthusiasts. Our collaborative holiday concert brings musical groups together to renew our choral traditions and celebrate the season in a timeless way.”
Founded in 2000, the GRC holds annual auditions which draw members from as far away as the Twin Cities. Members are selected based on the outcome of their individual auditions.
The GRC is a community choir with the purpose of enriching the community and enhancing the cultural life of people of all ages in central Minnesota and beyond.
The Cantabile Choir is in its 16th year and has 36 members. Fourth- through sixth-grade girls perform in the Choristers’ Choir and sixth- through ninth-grade girls perform in the Concert Choir. The season runs from September to May. Choristers have about four local and regional performances each year and the Concert Choir has about eight annual local, regional and national performances.
Grace Jorud, a member of Cantabile, is an eighth-grade Sartell resident who is in her third year of singing with the Concert Choir.
“Through the years of Cantabile, this particular concert has just gotten better year by year,” Jorud said. “Singing with the GRC brings energy and excitement. (It) makes me feel Christmas is getting closer and closer. The songs we sing in this concert get me even more in the Christmas spirit. The concert has become an important – my favorite part – of my Cantabile experience. I’m really excited to see how this concert turns out.”
Cantabile’s mission includes providing a rich and varied choral experience for talented young women that will challenge and help them grow musically, socially and academically. For the concert, Cantabile performers will sing favorite pieces that bring people together.
YCCM Director Garrett Lathe is also the choir director at Sartell High School. Lathe has been teaching in Sartell for 12 years and estimates more than 100 students from Sartell and St. Stephen have sung in YCCM, with about 20 students performing each year. In the early years, Sartell High School singers served as the core of the group.
Lathe said YCCM has been practicing since Oct. 28 and will capture the imagination of the audience with a rousing Noel processional from Africa.
“This is always a highlight of the YCCM Mixed Chorale’s season,” Lathe said. “Every year I’m struck by the beauty of this concert. This is something truly amazing that happens when you put 150-plus voices together spanning such a wide age range. I don’t think it’s possible to attend this concert and not be deeply affected by it.”
All three choirs draw members from St. Joseph, Sartell, St. Cloud and surrounding towns in central Minnesota.
The GRC, directed by Mary Kay Geston, rehearses two-and-a-half hours every other week with extra rehearsals before the concert. YCCM, directed by Lathe, and Cantabile, directed by Sarah Ludwig Cohen, rehearse every week for two hours.
“A Child’s Christmas” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16. Tickets range in price from $5 for students to $15 for adults, with a $40 total price for a family of four, and can be obtained by emailing GreatRiverChorale@gmail.com or calling (320) 515-4472.
The Great River Chorale, along with the Cantabile Girls’ Choir and Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota, will perform “A Child’s Christmas” concert at Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Dec. 15 and 16. Pictured are past members of the Great River Chorale.
Members of the Concert Choir of the St. Cloud State University Cantabile Girls’ Choir will join the Great River Choral and Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota in performing “A Child’s Christmas” concert. Pictured are past Cantabile Concert choir members.
Area choirs, including the Great River Chorale, Cantabile Girls’ Choir and Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota, will perform “A Child’s Christmas” concert at Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Dec. 15 and 16. Performers include several Sartell and St. Joseph residents.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.