30 years of The Menomonie Singers

In 1989, the price of a gallon of gas was 97 cents. A Sony Walkman cost $79. George Herbert Walker Bush was the president. The Energizer Bunny had just gotten going (and going....). Other notable events were the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini. Taylor Swift was born, and Vladimir Horowitz died. There were no cell phones and the internet was not yet invented. That same year, The Menomonie Singers (originally The Menomonie Chamber Singers) was a new arts organization in our community albeit a loosely structured one.

Organized and directed by Juliana Schmidt, The Menomonie Singers (TMS) began as a small mixed voice choir that performed programs of eclectic and traditional choral music with piano accompaniment. The ensemble also opened various events with the national anthem, sang for private parties, fundraisers, tour groups at the Mabel Tainter, and presented holiday programs at various locations in Menomonie, Amery, Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire. Several years passed with the choir performing usually during the holidays. The choir then numbered about a dozen singers, and primarily sang a cappella (unaccompanied).

In 2012, TMS became a formal arts organization: a board was formed, and the choir was incorporated. The choir obtained nonprofit status with the IRS, and a conductor – Nathan Jacobson. He led the choir for three years in regular performances at local churches. The choir expanded to 30 singers.

In 2015, Jacobson left to pursue another career path. Dr. Jerry Hui, director of choral activities at UW-Stout, took over the helm and over the next three years further developed the sound of the ensemble and challenged TMS with thematic presentations (often in different languages), and regular spring-time large-scale works by Fauré, Schubert and Haydn.

Currently, The Menomonie Singers numbers between 30 and 40 and is conducted by Amy Vogt. Vogt has a degree in choral conducting from UW-Eau Claire, and has held teaching positions at McDonnell High School in Chippewa Falls, and at Osseo-Fairchild High School. She was once a soprano in The Menomonie Singers, and has performed as a professional choir singer.

Many arts organizations fail after three years. A celebration is certainly in order. Everyone is invited to A Gala to celebrate 30 years of the choir’s existence Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 at 6 p.m. at the Mabel Tainter Theater. Tickets are $30 in advance, and $35 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the Mabel Tainter and through their website: mabeltainter.org

This dress-up event will certainly have music, presented by members of the current choir in the second floor gallery, and the alumni and current choir of TMS in the theater. In addition, there will be a wine raffle, food and beverage, a silent auction, a photo box and of course, a birthday cake!

For more information, contact Juliana Schmidt, Executive Director, at themenomoniesingers@gmail.com. Or you can find the choir on Facebook, and at its website: themenomoniesingers.org

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