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Good for the soul

Clearwater Community Choir ‘carrying a tune’ since 2006

“Singing is good for the soul!” exclaimed Carol Mason, noting that “you have a wonderful feeling when you’re singing.”

Carol’s face lights up as she talks about singing. “Singing is joyful!” she says.  She smiles her big smile as she tells the story of how the Clearwater Community Choir came to be.

The idea for a community choir came during a Thanksgiving ecumenical service at Clearwater’s Rejoice Lutheran Church in 2005.  Marcia Benson, the former music director at Rejoice Lutheran Church, and Heidi Hanson, music director at Santiago Lutheran Church, were both involved.  It was a great service, bringing together people from the two communities, as well as other areas in the vicinity.  The church was full, and it seemed that everyone was thankful and filled with love and a positive spirit. The music directors had put together a program that inspired the congregation. At some point Carol, Marcia and Heidi looked at each other and said “Why not build on this?  Why not start a community choir?”

From that moment, the work to put together a community choir began.  Initially, a Cantata program was begun, with two concerts, one at Santiago Lutheran Church and one at Rejoice Lutheran in Clearwater.  But the community choir idea had taken hold.  Carol worked to enlist others.  Her husband, Frank, agreed to spearhead the advertising, finding local businesses who would advertise in the program’s bulletin for a small donation.  Carol and others put up flyers around town.  And by the end of November 2006, the Clearwater Community Choir had organized, rehearsed, and performed their first concert.

“It was a lot of work,” said Carol, “but it was worth it.”

The work continues.  The Clearwater Community Choir’s board takes care of finding a director, ordering music, soliciting funds from area businesses, printing the programs, and reserving the church for rehearsals and performances.  Although many of the board members and singers are retired, some are not – and put in many hours to make the choir a success.  During the choir’s beginnings, Carol was still commuting to Minneapolis to her dental practice.  Others had families and jobs to go to, yet everyone contributed, and the job got done.

Since retiring, Carol has added even more to her musical plate.  Her passion for music – both vocal and instrumental – comes out as she talks about her involvement in singing groups and bell choirs.  She is a ringer in two handbell choirs:  the Wright County Ringers and the Clearwater Methodist Church Handbell Choir, where she is the director as well as a ringer.  She is the president of the Clearwater Community Choir and sings with them and also enjoys singing with the Granite City Sweet Adelines. She is busy, but she loves it.

Through 2012, the Clearwater Community Choir performed twice yearly – spring and fall.  In 2013 and 2014 the choir’s board made a decision to keep the spring concert schedule but not to perform during the fall.

Although Heidi Hanson and Marcia Benson, the original founders of the choir, were the directors at the outset, changes in their schedules have made them unavailable recently.  Marcia Benson moved to Alexandria and is only available to help out from time to time.  Heidi Hanson acquired additional private music students and has simply not had the time to direct the CCC since 2012.  However, the choir recently was able to recruit Roger Towler, a former Minnesota high school choir and band director and semi-professional baritone, who has directed the last two seasons. He has conducted for many musical theater groups in central Minnesota and also directs the choir at Peace United Church of Christ in St. Cloud. He will be directing the Clearwater Community Choir again for the 2014 spring concert. Towler, who composes as well as performing and directing, has brought some of his own works for the choir to include in its repertoire. Towler’s wife, Susan, has also agreed to sing with the choir, bringing her lovely soprano voice and considerable talent to the group.

“But you don’t have to be a professional singer to sing with the Clearwater Community Choir.  You just have to be able to carry a tune,” said Carol.

“There are so many people with good voices but with no outlet,” continued Carol.  To those folks, Carol says, “Come sing with us!”  The choir can always use good voices, especially men.  But anyone can join.

“This isn’t a huge commitment of time,” said Carol.  “Everyone has busy schedules, but this is not a huge commitment.  You can fit it into your life.”

The choir typically has practices at Rejoice Lutheran Church on Sunday afternoons for four to five weeks before the concert.  The practices last just an hour and a half. Sometimes an additional rehearsal is scheduled during the week if choir members or the director feel there is a need.


The concert is also scheduled for a Sunday afternoon.  In the spring, the date is usually set before Mother’s Day, so as to include those folks who start the spring fishing season on the opener.  In fact, the concert is usually scheduled before Easter and Holy Week, when everyone’s schedules can get quite busy.  In the fall, the concert is often in October, since there are possible conflicts with deer hunting and football games.

This year’s concert is scheduled for 4:00 p.m., April 6, 2014, at Rejoice Lutheran Church in Clearwater. A recent tradition has included a sing-along with the audience. Since the church has large screens positioned facing the audience, the words to popular tunes will be posted on the screens. The choir and audience will participate in singing these songs together. A reception follows the concert, with light refreshments served.  Come, enjoy the concert, and mingle with the performers afterwards.

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