'Gone Country' goes all out

WORTHINGTON -- When the curtain goes up Friday night on the latest installment of "Gone Country" at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, a lot of new talent will be showcased -- along with new curtains.

WORTHINGTON -- When the curtain goes up Friday night on the latest installment of "Gone Country" at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, a lot of new talent will be showcased -- along with new curtains.

"One of the things that is going to be a direct result of the show is that there are new curtains, just bought by the Friends of the Auditorium," explained Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh, auditorium manager. "A portion of the funds raised by the show will be used to pay for those curtains."

"Gone Country III: Legends of the Grand Ole Opry" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The show will include some familiar faces from past shows as well as many new performers who came to the stage through the audition process.

"We have plenty of new singers, and they seem to be coming from a little bit farther out all the time," said Bill Shoup, who serves as the production's musical director.

The lineup of "legends" for the show includes Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Pride, Buck Owens and Moe Bandy, to name a few. The voices are matched to the musical styles as much as possible, and choosing the music is a collaborative effort.


"We ask people if they have some ideas of what they want to sing, and we have to figure out what works with the rest of the show," Shoup explained. "We try to have people give some thoughts. We tried to do a few more duets this time. It's always a challenge to figure out what people's voices go together, what ranges are compatible."

There will also be at least one quartet -- a family endeavor. Allen and Nancy Jensen of Heron Lake will be joined by two of their three grown daughters -- Jan Voit of Heron Lake and Marjorie Fogelman of Okabena -- to sing a gospel number, "What a Friend We have in Jesus."

"It's usually just my wife and myself" who perform," Allen Jensen explained. "We do a lot of playing, play for parties, and we open for some shows and stuff like that. We're not professionals by any sense of the word, but we have a lot of fun doing what we're doing."

The Jensens decided to audition for "Gone Country" after attending last year's performance. With the quartet format, they can change up the familiar hymn.

"We're going to break it up a bit. We'll sing one verse in unison, then there's one where we each sing a line. My wife plays the flute, so there will be an instrumental between the second and third verses, followed by three-part harmony on the last verse," Jensen described.

Two other newcomers, Rachel Voehl and Bruce Dysthe, are both doing solo numbers. Voehl, who hails from the Jackson-Lakefield area, is currently a nursing student at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, while Dysthe is an almost-retired construction contractor from Beaver Creek.

"I'll be singing Loretta Lynn, one song -- 'You Ain't Woman Enough,'" said Voehl, who has experience singing in area talent shows. "I like that the song has some attitude. Attitude's fun. Loretta Lynn's a very smart woman ... and it's a song that anybody can relate to. I'm going to try to get into her character."

Due to her college schedule, Voehl will only perform the one song, but Dysthe will take to the stage twice -- once for "Americana" by Moe Bandy and again for "Crystal Chandeliers" by Charlie Pride.


Dysthe began performing "as a joke" years ago when he bought a pre-karaoke singing machine for his children, and now he uses his vocal abilities to entertain at nursing homes throughout the region.

"I do about 20 a month. I'm working with the Children's Miracle Network and donate everything that I make," he said, explaining that the money goes to provide hotel rooms for parents whose children are in the neonatal intensive care unit. "I don't have much spare time anymore. I do a lot of benefits."

While many of the performers have honed their singing skills through karaoke, "Gone Country" gives them a chance to perform with a live band. Shoup on guitar will be joined by Paul Larson, bass; Ken Clark, drums; and Cindy Anderson on keyboards. The production will also include some "cornfield comedy" as well as dance numbers by the Prairie Thunder Cloggers and advanced students from the Dance Academy in Worthington.

Tickets for "Gone Country III" are available at the auditorium box office, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; phone 376-9101.

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