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WMS choirs sing their hearts out this Thursday, Friday

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Members of the sixth grade girls' ensemble pose for their "Leader of the Pack" performance as part of the Worthington Middle School choir concert at the Memorial Auditorium in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Warning: Attending Worthington Middle School (WMS) choir concerts can be habit-forming.

With more than 260 sixth- through eighth-graders performing at Memorial Auditorium this Thursday and Friday in the annual spring concert directed by WMS choral and general music veteran Cindy Anderson, many local residents consider the show a can't-miss event each year.

You might even find yourself wearing a habit--at least you will if you're one of the more than dozen eighth-grade girls in the concert's "Sister Act" medley.

"The last time we did the 'Sister Act' piece was in 2001 with the (then ninth-grade) girls from the class of 2004," recalled Anderson. "I definitely want to thank them, because a bunch of them offered their costumes for us to use again this year.

"The moms knew right where they were and were so kind about letting us use them."

Rachel Drietz is one eighth-grader who didn't have to go far to pick up a habit; her older sister, Katie, was one of the "Sister Act" participants from 2001, so hers came from a closet at home.

"I like to dress up," expressed Drietz, when asked about wearing the habit.

Becca Christensen acted fast when Anderson told the girls a current WMS teacher, Alyssa (Soderholm) Hietbrink, was another of the former "Sister Act" performers.

"I went and asked her right away if I could use it," chirped Christensen. "I think it's pretty cool that she did the same songs, and I was glad to get to use her costume. I love the medley, because it's fun and kind of sassy."

Anderson has much more on tap for the concert than the singing nuns. The eighth-grade boys' ensemble contrasts with that of their female peers, as they are singing a medley called "Calendar Girls" that includes bits from "Run Around Sue," "Chantilly Lace," "Pretty Woman" and, of course, "Calendar Girls."

Other small ensembles are the seventh grade boys crooning Ringo Starr's "You're 16, You're Beautiful, and You're Mine," the seventh grade girls channeling Alabama in "Mountain Music," the sixth grade girls emoting in "Leader of the Pack," and the sixth grade boys letting out their inner hayseeds in "Farmer Tan."

"Cindy Sieve, a paraprofessional in the building, brought in all of her husband's seed caps for us to use in 'Farmer Tan' because we were having a heck of a time finding them," explained Anderson.

Large-group pieces involve two folk songs, plus "Accentuate the Positive" and "Concert Shtick," for the sixth graders, and a spiritual, a classical Brahms song and an upbeat swing number for the seventh graders.

The eighth-graders will sing a few heart-tuggers during the traditional slideshow, as well as "Children of Peace" and "Seize the Day" from the musical "Newsies."

In addition, the nine eighth-graders who were selected by audition to participate in the Luverne Choir Festival in early March will sing "If Only You Believe" during the evening.

"There's really something for everybody in this," asserted Anderson. "And the ensembles all have choreography.

"I always hope parents can see the improvement from grade to grade, and it's my hope that the students are prepared by the end of eighth grade for the next wonderful step to choral and other music opportunities at the high school."

Hietbrink, now in her first year as an eighth-grade English teacher at WMS, plans to be on hand to witness her nun costume from 2001 back in action -- this time on Christensen -- and relive some memories from her own middle school choir concert days.

"It was a fairly memorable experience, when I think back to middle school," reminisced Hietbrink. "I don't remember what we sang the other years, but I specifically remember the nun one. I have three younger brothers who were in these choir concerts, too, and it's always fun to see the shows, but this year will be even more entertaining because now I know the majority of the kids.

"I think Mrs. Anderson does a really good job of getting students interested in music."

As for Anderson, she calls the habitual spring concerts her "favorite shows" of the year, although preparing 260 kids to sing, move and change costumes can be headache inducing.

In the end, says Anderson, "When it all falls together, it really is a miracle."

The Worthington Middle School choir concert will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Memorial Auditorium. An admission fee is payable at the door; District 518 activity passes are also honored.