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Albs usher in the holiday season

Brian korthals/Daily Globe The Albs -- (from left) Arlen Foss, Kris Besel, Galen Benton and Louise Wickstrom -- rehearse in preparation for their Sunday benefit concert for the Community Christmas Basket program.

WORTHINGTON -- After 13 seasons, the Albs & Friends concert to benefit the Community Christmas Basket program is a well-established part of the local Christmas tradition.

But for their 14th concert, the Albs are changing things up a bit: This year, there's a change in venue and, instead of two concerts, there will only be one.

The Albs & Friends will take the stage at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center -- previously the concert has always been at a local church.

The theme of the production will be "Christmas Places," according to Arlen Foss, who put the "A" initial in the original Albs group, although the group's makeup has changed over the years.

"We've come up with five places that are really important to appreciate Christmas for what it is intended," Foss explained. "The first, of course, is Bethlehem, because you can't celebrate Christmas and avoid Bethlehem. Then we've got Our Town, Our Home, Jerusalem -- which is prophetic -- and The Heart."

Foss will be joined by the core group of Albs --Louise Wickstrom, Galen Benton, Kris Besel and Steve Lynn -- and a bevy of other area talents, including the Worthington Brass, Worthington High School Orchestra, Harold VanderSloot, Maynard and Jeanene Townswick and Teresa Widboom. Master of ceremonies will be Irwin Van Leeuwen.

"We're all going to be sitting on the stage, like the Gaithers," said Foss, referring to a popular gospel group. "When it's your turn to perform, you just get up. We're also going to sing some carols. ... It will be a good blend of sacred and so-called secular Christmas music."

The concert will feature some readings by Lutheran pastor and author Herb Brokering, and Foss promises some lighter moments, too.

"There will be some humor," he said. "Lena is going to tell us about making Christmas dinner for Ole. We will also have a radio skit, a 21st century version of the nativity scene, a la Garrison Keillor."

A sponsor has taken care of the fees for renting Memorial Auditorium, so Foss emphasized that 100 percent of the free-will offering taken during the concert will go to the Community Christmas Basket program.

"There's no reserved seating, so you may want to come a little early," he advised. "I'd also encourage those who are able to do so to sit in the balcony and save the downstairs seats for people who are less mobile. "

With just one performance this year, Foss hopes to fill the auditorium with people eager to welcome the holidays.

"This is a good way to start the Christmas season and get the spirit as it really ought to be received," Foss said.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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