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MasterSingers have new venue, directors

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Posted: Monday, December 2, 2019 2:53 pm

The Madison MasterSingers will once again set the tone for the Christmas season with concerts of sacred music in Howard and Madison. However, this year, both the directors and the Madison venue are different.

With a new grandchild, director Patti Beck asked to take the semester off, according to president Charlotte Groce. While the nonprofit's board did not have to look far to find someone to step up, they did find that it took more than one person to fill Beck's shoes.

"We asked several of our members who are talented and have some experience to step in for a semester," Groce said.

Yvonne Dietterle directs the Maplewood Men, a group that recently participated in the Festival of Men's Voices in Sioux Falls and will be performing in the Madison area during the holiday season. She is also a retired elementary music teacher who worked at St. Thomas Catholic School.

Diane Plack directs the handbell choir at Trinity Lutheran Church. Like Dietterle, she is a retired elementary music teacher. She taught at Madison Elementary School.

"When you get into music, you don't ever quit. It's in your blood," Groce said.

Dietterle and Plack agree that directing the MasterSingers has been fun.

"These people have been singing together for so long, they feel it together," Plack said.

The decision to leave St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church for Madison High School was made in response to changes there, Groce explained. The choir loft is under renovation and the parish plans to move the grand piano from the sanctuary to the choir loft. Despite the church's desirable acoustics, that alteration will prevent it from being a suitable concert venue.

"I think the different venue will be interesting," Plack said.

This year, the concert will include traditional carols, like "Away in a Manger," "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "The First Noel," but it will also include contemporary songs like Amy Grant's "Breath of Heaven" and "Born in Bethlehem." None will be entirely new for those who have faithfully attended MasterSingers concerts over the years, but none have been performed in recent years.

As in previous years, the group is adding special touches to some of the songs to make the concert memorable as well as meaningful. Vocal soloists Rose O'Brien and Randy Hedge are featured in "When the Little Baby Boy was Born."

Accompanist Ginny Ziebarth will step out from behind the piano and be featured on flute for two songs: "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Bethlehem Wind." Gail Lehr and Stacey Riedel will pick up handbells for "Away in a Manger."

The MasterSingers started as a community choir in the 1970s and perform two concerts of sacred music annually -- at Easter and Christmastime. The group's revenue is limited to concert proceeds and membership dues.

With that income, they are responsible for covering a number of expenses, including rental fees and liability insurance. In addition to purchasing music, they must obtain the rights to perform it, which is costly as well.

The MasterSingers Christmas Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Bethany Lutheran Church in Howard. A second concert will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday in the Madison High School auditorium.

Admission is $10 for adults and $2 for children in eighth grade or younger.

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