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Return of the Albs: Dec. 13 concert revives a long-standing local tradition

WORTHINGTON -- If you felt like something major was missing from the holiday scene in Worthington last December, you probably weren't alone.For the first time in 16 years, a gaping hole existed on the Sunday afternoon when the annual Albs concert...

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The vocal octet that will perform during the Dec. 13 Albs concert practices around the table Nov. 16 at Emmanuel United Methodist church in Worthington. (Jesse Trelstad/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - If you felt like something major was missing from the holiday scene in Worthington last December, you probably weren’t alone.
For the first time in 16 years, a gaping hole existed on the Sunday afternoon when the annual Albs concert would have occurred.
“There was nothing in 2014,” pointed out Steve Rubis, who is helping to revive the long-running seasonal tradition.
“And I think it was missed.”
That was because the heart of the Albs, Arlen Foss, had decided the 2013 show would be his last; his dear wife LaVonne was ailing, and he wanted to be available to offer her more support.
Several months later, Foss himself was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and a concert became an even greater impossibility.
“The Albs concert was a relied-on piece of the Community Christmas Basket’s budget for all those years,” said Rubis. “People pitched in to help make up the difference last year, I understand.”
The free-will offering accepted at the annual concerts typically brought in upward of $2,000 for the Christmas Basket effort.
Foss initiated the Albs concert tradition in 1998, along with his fellow American Lutheran Church colleague Bill Blundell and church organist/pianist Louise Wickstrom.
Over the years, the Albs’ chief personnel changed somewhat, with string bass player Galen Benton becoming a standard part of the group and, later, vocalist Kris Besel.
Additional local talent was always recruited to round out the program, with participants ranging from humorists to trombonists to accordionists to dancers to District 518 orchestra students.
“There were well over 100 people who were involved with an Albs concert at least once,” noted Rubis.
Because Rubis held Foss in such high regard, he thought that organizing an Albs concert as a tribute to Foss would be a worthy endeavor.
“Arlen was a man of significance in our community, and I really learned from him over the years,” said Rubis.
“He did a lot of things here that wouldn’t have happened at all, or as well, without his involvement; he was a good leader and a visionary, but he also would get down to work and make things happen.”
Besides being an enthusiastic singer, clarinetist and storyteller, Foss was a Kiwanis Club member, a charter member of the Friends of the Auditorium, a District 518 school board director and, following his retirement from American Lutheran, a guest preacher at numerous area churches.

“I said to Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh once, ‘Arlen has his fingers in a lot of pies,’ and she said, ‘His heart and soul, too,’” recalled Rubis. “Arlen made a definite impact on this community.”
Rubis has bustled about to assemble a spirited cast for the 2015 Albs concert, which will take place on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 3 p.m.
“We have Louise Wickstrom back on keyboards, Galen Benton on bass and Steve Lynn on drums,” listed Rubis.
“Rich and Kris Besel will do some of the vocal duets Kris used to sing with Arlen, and Randy Rogers and his barbershop quartet will be a big part of the concert, doing four numbers.”
Also in the mix is a flute trio featuring Dea Klumper, Becky Schilling and Kris Stewart.
“Dea only missed being in one of the Albs concerts,” said Rubis, adding that the Worthington Brass will also play, as they commonly did in the past.
Keeping with Foss’ established program, the concert will open with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and close with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Irwin Van Leeuwen, a retired pastor of Worthington’s American Reformed Church, will return to the stage to present comments about his close friend Foss.
“It will be a lot like the Albs concerts people enjoyed in the past, but Arlen won’t be there,” said Rubis. “He is a tough act to follow.”
Although the performers involved don’t yet know if the Albs concert will resume its annual appearance after this December, they are pleased to be in on the 2015 revival and see the concert as a fitting tribute to Foss.
“For me, it’s an honor to be able to do this in memory of Arlen Foss,” said Rubis, “and to benefit the Community Christmas Baskets program at the same time.”

“Christmas Harmony: Remembering Arlen Foss and the Albs” is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. A free-will offering, benefiting the Nobles County Community Christmas Baskets program, will be accepted.

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Singing in this year’s Albs concert are, front row (from left): Dawn Gordon, Brenda DeSmith, Kris Besel, Elizabeth Bushard; back row: Rich Besel, Roger Lester, Steve Rubis and Randy Rogers. Linda Lang (far left) will accompany on piano. (Jesse Trelstad/Daily Globe)

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