WORTHINGTON - A Saturday night concert featuring the top choirs from both Worthington and St. Michael-Albertville will be free for all attendees, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a million bucks.
With the WHS Concert Choir directed by Kerry Johnson playing host, the 80-voice STMA choir will complete its spring tour with a 7 p.m. Saturday appearance at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.
“Worthington will always be a special place to me because that’s where I started my teaching career,” said Joseph Osowski, who now conducts the STMA choirs along with 2011 WHS alumnus Brandon Berger.
“It’s been pretty great to stay in touch with Kerry [Johnson] through our professional network, and I continue to be impressed with the work she does in Worthington and with her ongoing pursuit of excellence,” said Osowski.
Osowski served as the WHS choir director from 2006-09; he also directed the Worthington Chamber Singers and the First United Methodist Church’s Chancel Choir during those years.
Connecting the dots between Osowski and Johnson is Worthington native Berger, whose parents Jeff and Janice Berger continue to live and work here.
Berger spent his first two years at WHS in choirs under Osowski’s direction, and his final two years with Johnson at the helm. After his graduation from WHS, Berger earned a bachelor of music vocal education degree at St. Olaf College and landed a teaching position alongside Osowski.
“I was inspired to make Worthington a destination on our [STMA’s] tour because I am passionate about giving back to communities that give us so much,” said Berger.
“My parents and grandparents live in Worthington, and I have many high school friends who are again making Worthington their home, so I know it is a place where art exists and thrives - and I’m happy to bring a group I’ve helped cultivate to perform in my hometown.”
After tour performances in the preceding days at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Gustavus Adolphus College and Sioux Falls, S.D., the STMA vocalists will share their musicianship and spirit locally.
Their Saturday program, with a theme of “The World I Dream,” includes several pieces by Minnesota composers - Jake Runestad, Eric Barnum, Timothy Takach, Stephen Paulus and Robert Shaw all have works on the list, as does Berger.
“’The World I Dream’ is a song I composed for our choir,” said Berger. “It’s in its premier tour, and the lyrics and music reflect on the idea of what it means to advocate and fight for true equality, and whether or not that can be attained.
“Because I’m now finishing my fourth year of teaching at STMA, I’ve worked with our current seniors throughout their high school experience,” Berger continued.
“I’ve had the chance to grow with them and become a better teacher every year because of them, so this song is the manifestation of my work and dreams as a choir teacher.”
Indeed, each selection on the STMA’s program represents either a dream for our world or society, explained Berger.
“Or, a nightmarish zone when our dreams don’t come true,” he said. “But it all comes around to end with a positive note.”
That will occur when the STMA and WHS choirs together sing the concert finale, “Draw the Circle Wide” by Mark A. Miller, intoning “Draw the circle wide … no one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side.”
“It’s about being inclusive and not leaving anyone behind,” said Osowski. “Kerry Johnson will direct the combined ensembles.”
For her part, Johnson is thrilled to have the STMA choir make Worthington a concert stop.
“It’s exciting to have this collaboration,” said Johnson. “Joe [Osowski] is an amazing director, and Brandon [Berger] bridged the gap between us as our student.
“What an opportunity to have Brandon return and present his choir, as well as some of his original music,” Johnson continued.
“Our students will benefit from seeing a WHS grad out teaching and making music in the world, and I hope this may inspire them to see that music involvement doesn’t have to end after high school.
“And because our town is kind of geographically isolated, it’s wonderful to have this chance to share choral music with STMA so our students can see there are other schools and choirs also striving to make great music.”
The concert incorporates the WHS Concert Choir, with Johnson leading them in a few numbers including “On Compassion” by Stephanie K. Andrews and “City Called Heaven,” arranged by Josephine Poelinitz.
“We’re so pleased to be able to come and hear the Worthington choir and work with Kerry [Johnson],” said Osowski.
“She’s taken the program to new heights, and it will be fun to share that with our students and to return to a community like Worthington that is so supportive of the arts.”
Added Johnson, “This concert is free and open to everyone; we would love to have a large audience.
“And people won’t have to pay anything to hear some really great music.”
The St. Michael-Albertville Concert Choir, directed by Joseph Osowski and Brandon Berger, performs its “The World I Dream” program in collaboration with the Worthington High School Concert Choir at 7 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. The concert is free and open to the public.