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On a high note: Lakes Area Chorale focuses on fun in its 2019 season

Lakes Area Chorale Director Barbara Schramm leads the choir during a rehearsal at First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes last weekend. The choir has been rehearsing every Sunday since January in preparation for the April 7 show. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)1 / 4
Schramm injects humor into every rehearsal, making jokes and telling funny stories. She chose the "Best of Broadway/Best of Lincoln Center" theme for the show, she said, because she wanted to perform "something fun." (Marie Johnson / Tribune)2 / 4
(Click to see entire photo) Accompanist April Spaeth tickles the ivories as the Lakes Area Chorale sings during a recent rehearsal. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)3 / 4
Schramm is new to the Lakes Area Chorale this year. Lori Paakh, the Chorale's previous longtime director, had another commitment and couldn't serve as director this year. Schramm has enjoyed a long career in music, singing and teaching all over the world. She said she's been having a great time leading the Detroit Lakes choir. (Marie Johnson / Tribune) 4 / 4

There was a magical moment at last Sunday's choir rehearsal when all the right notes were hit, all the parts were perfectly in sync, and most importantly, all 50 of us in the room were feeling the same emotions, sharing the same energy, and letting that pour out through our voices in song.

I had goosebumps.

After the final note was sung, everybody was quiet for a second, and then a few people started clapping, and at least one person cheered. A couple of the sopranos standing around me had tears in their eyes. I'm pretty sure some altos did, too, and maybe even a few tenors and basses.

They had all felt it.

It's amazing what music can do for the mind, body and soul. It's a beautiful thing. The mere sound of a few well-played notes has the ability to heighten our senses, awakening the sleeping artists that lie within us all. When you really get into it — when you have a moment like we had on Sunday — that inner artist isn't just awake, but is fervently calling on you to dance, revel, laugh, cry, create, inspire... It's powerful stuff.

Choir music can be particularly powerful. When a group of people sing together, and especially when they do it well, that experience forges a feeling of connection, reminding us that we're all a part of something greater than ourselves.

Though this is my first year with the Lakes Area Chorale, I've been a singer for well over 20 years, both with choirs and as a soloist, and I've found choir music to be a lesson in the human experience. When multiple voices singing several different notes come together in harmony, it results in a fuller, more intense sound than any singular voice, no matter how lovely, is capable of producing on its own. We truly are better together.

It's that thrill of the shared singing experience that brings us Lakes Area Chorale members together every Sunday.

We're a well-numbered bunch, and we stretch the limits of the practice room at First Lutheran Church, cramming ourselves into long rows of chairs that reach from end to end of the room, sitting elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors as we pore over every note, every rhythm, every pronunciation of every word of every song.

It takes real, serious, sometimes painstaking work to get your sound where you want it to be. To achieve those magical moments that give you goosebumps. The whole story, though, is that rehearsals have also been pretty darn fun. Director Barbara Schramm makes sure of that, injecting humor into every lesson.

"I always say, a choir responds to humor," she says. "If they have fun, then they really want to do it, even if it's parts that they haven't done so well."

Her teaching style includes plenty of jokes and funny stories about her past — and with her long history of professional singing and teaching, there's plenty of material for her to work with.

Schramm was born and raised in Moorhead, and lives there again today, but for about 40 years in-between her high school graduation and her return to her hometown in 2007, she lived in a lot of different places, including Illinois, Virginia, Michigan, Connecticut, New York City and then Germany, where she lived for 20 years.

She met her husband, Roland, in Germany, and continually developed her talents and grew her career there. She presented master classes in vocal performance, held workshops for choral conductors and also conducted choirs herself. After she and Roland returned to Moorhead, she taught Voice at Concordia College until her retirement in 2014.

Directing the Lakes Area Chorale this year has been a much-enjoyed return to choral conducting, she says. She was recruited for the one-year gig through her connections in the local music world. Longtime Chorale Director, Lori Paakh, was unable to lead the group this year due to another commitment.

"They called me and I said, 'Well, it's exactly the kind of choir I love to direct, so yes!'" Schramm explains of how she came on board. "I love community choirs who just love to sing and have a good time — and learn a little bit about music and a little bit about voice and how to be healthy singers."

She says she's seen the choir come a long way since the first rehearsal in early January: "People are letting their voices be freer. If everybody lets their voice go, you get the best choral blend... They also have a much wider dynamic level."

The Chorale has been rehearsing for two to three hours every Sunday in preparation for this year's spring concert. Coming up on Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m. at the Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes, the concert's theme was inspired by Schramm's time in New York City.

"New York, New York: Best of Broadway/Best of Lincoln Center" will feature a mix of Broadway classics — like "All That Jazz" and "The Sound of Music" — along with a few humorous opera songs (the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts hosts many famous operas, and is where Schramm spent "almost all my time" while living in The Big Apple).

"I wanted to do something fun, but with a little bit of classical, too," Schramm says of the show's theme. "I also wanted to add some humor in by adding opera. Opera singers are not usually very serious, they're usually really fun."

The full choir is performing several pieces, and there will also be a number of solos, a duet, and a trio. Summit School Dancers will join in for a few numbers, and live instrumentalists will be part of the show, as well. The program will include an intermission.

"I'm really excited," says Schramm of the concert, adding, "The Historic Holmes Theatre has fantastic acoustics. This town has such an incredible theatre to use."

There is no cost for admission, but good-will donations will be accepted. The Lakes Area Chorale is a nonprofit community choir that relies on community support. Come out to the concert to show your support, and see the kind of talent that exists right here in Detroit Lakes. You might just get goosebumps.

IF YOU GO TO THE SHOW

What: Lakes Area Chorale Spring Concert: "New York, New York: Best of Broadway/Best of Lincoln Center"

When: Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m.

Where: The Historic Holmes Theatre, Detroit Lakes

Cost: Free-will donation

Details: Broadway classics and humorous opera songs sung by the Lakes Area Chorale; show will also include multiple solos and small ensemble pieces, with live instrumental accompaniment and performances by Summit School Dancers.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 4-year-old son and toddler daughter, and their yellow Lab.

(218) 844-1452