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Tracy Frank, Published April 11 2014

Rural singers join voices for community cantata

CASSELTON, N.D. – Singers from different congregations have been coming together for more than 40 years to join their voices for the community chorus’ cantata for Easter.

About 20 members of the United Singers group are involved in this year’s cantata of eight songs, which they will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Leo’s Parish in Casselton.

The Rev. Peter Schiefelbein of Mapleton, a pastor at Martin’s Lutheran Church in Casselton, is in his second year directing the United Singers. He says this year’s production, which involves dramatic readings as well as singing, is especially powerful.

“The words are at the heart of what the experience is about, and my goal is to help the choir understand the meaning of the words on an emotional level and then sing them with a clarity that allows the listeners to become involved at a similar level,” Schiefelbein said. “Perfection is not as important to me as passion, and this choir has it in abundance.”

Chuck Albright of Lynchburg, a member of Canaan Moravian Church near Davenport, says this year’s cantata is almost like a play.

“This is probably going to be the most meaningful production we’ve put on,” he said.

Anyone is welcome to join the choir, Schiefelbein said, adding that he worries “not enough young people are discovering the joy of having a voice and using it in the creation of something greater than themselves.”

It can be difficult for smaller congregations to recruit enough people to form a choir, so the community cantata gives members of those congregations the chance to participate in a large choir of dedicated singers, Schiefelbein said.

“This is a group of people who enjoy singing, and we work hard to keep joy at the center of that process,” he said. “One of the fascinating and wonderful things about working with a group like this is that I invariably come away from rehearsals feeling like a happier and better person, like I’ve been in touch with a deeper and richer level of what life is meant to be about.”

Reid Lauderman of Leonard and pastor of Bethel and Goshen Moravian Churches in Leonard and Durbin, says he and his wife, who are originally from Pennsylvania, have sung in choirs for many years. They don’t have a choir at either Bethel or Goshen Moravian.

“This gives us the opportunity to fill that piece that’s a little bit missing from our worship experience,” Lauderman said. “It’s just a joy to be able to sing as part of this. It’s so neat to sing with people from all different churches and all different walks of life. We just all come together and sing praises to God, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Wade Miller of Arthur, pastor of Casselton and Arthur United Methodist churches, says it’s really nice to be able to sing with strong voices.

“It’s nice to have both the teaching and the dramatic part of it to really get the feel for the music and the story,” he said.

Mary Gohdes of rural Mapleton, who attends Canaan Moravian, has been part of the United Singers for about 20 years and is now participating with her daughter, Brianna.

“Singing makes me feel good and the camaraderie of the other singers is fun,” she said.

If you go

What: United Singers cantata

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: St. Leo’s Parish, Casselton, N.D.

Tickets: Event is free and open to the public

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526