by Dennis Dalman
Visions of Christmas – a manger, winter sleighs, jingling bells, chestnuts roasting and partridges in pear trees – will fill the air when the Great River Chorale performs its 14th annual Christmas concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Cloud.
The concert, dubbed A Merry Little Christmas, will feature the voices of more than 100 singers in two choirs – the Great River Chorale’s 56 adult singers and their guests, the 65 girls in the St. Cloud-area Cantabile choir.
Both choirs well represent the entire central Minnesota area. From Sartell, for example, there are five members in the Great River Chorale choir and 22 girls in the Cantabile choir.
Maureen Fox-Meyer of Sartell has sung with the Great River Chorale for five years as a second soprano. She is the owner-operator of The Change organic hair salon in Sartell, but her other passion – practically a second job – is music and singing. Fox-Meyer earned a degree in voice from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, and has sung jazz, choir and opera. In college, when she was 24 years old, she even once played and sang the role of a 99-year-old nun in a Puccini opera.
Fox-Meyer enjoys singing in the Great River Chorale because of the caliber of its performers.
“I like singing with great-quality singers,” she said. “These singers are very good at their craft. This concert will be a lot of fun. I get to do a duet with my friend, Deborah Ferrell (Great River Chorale soprano and business manager), for the song The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Fox-Meyer and her husband, Kim, have a 3-year-old son, Kieran, who also enjoys singing at his school, the Little Saints Academy.
A Merry Little Christmas will feature mostly the old tried-and-true nostalgic seasonal songs, including Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Away in a Manger, The Christmas Song, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells and The Twelve Days of Christmas.
It will also feature an original composition by St. Cloud composer J. Aaron McDermott and a contemporary Christmas song by Welsh composer Paul Mealor.
“It’s a great way to kick off the Christmas season just a few days after Thanksgiving,” Ferrell said. “The variety in the choirs is amazing.”
A Merry Little Christmas will combine choral music and sing-along songs for the audience. It will also include text narration by Br. Paul Vincent Niebauer of the Order of St. Benedict, Collegeville.
Guest organist will be Charles Echols, emeritus professor of music for St. Cloud State University.
About the choirs
The Great River Chorale, now with 56 members, is a community choir based in St. Cloud. The singers hail from 16 cites throughout central Minnesota.
The choir is dedicated to enriching people through concerts, musical collaborations with local and regional guest artists and musical outreach programs.
Widely known, the ensemble has been featured on Minnesota Public Radio’s classical music Regional Spotlight show and was chosen to be a selection on MPR’s 2013 Taste of the Holidays CD.
Last year, in June, Great River Chorale was named the principal choral partner of the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra.
Mary Kay Geston has been artistic director of the chorale since 2010. The group’s ensemble accompanist is William White.
The Cantabile Girls’ Choir Program is sponsored by the St. Cloud State University Music Preparatory Program and offers two choirs for young girls in central Minnesota – the Choristers and Concert Choir. Both are comprised of auditioned singers in fourth through ninth grades. They have been part of SCSU’s Music Preparatory Program for 15 years.
The director of the Cantabile Concert Choir is Holly Lathe, and Betsy Eickhoff is conductor of the Cantabile Choristers.
Tickets for A Merry Little Christmas may be purchased online at the chorale’s website at www.GreatRiverChorale.org.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church is located at 4310 CR 137 in St. Cloud.