Members of Prince of Peace Lutheran and the La Crescent Methodist Church Choir who braved a ripping early-winter wind that all but emptied the dark evening sidewalks enjoyed an additional incentive to show up at practice recently.
Before scurrying off to choir practice, they lingered over a Methodist fellowship meal of baked salmon. But then it was down to business. With just a few weeks before the Christmas concert they still had a lot of ground to cover.
Neither the Methodist Church nor Prince of Peace Lutheran has enough voices to field a choir, but between the two congregations they pull together a group that performs for special occasions. The Christmas concert on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 10 a.m. at the La Crescent United Methodist Church, will mark the third joint performance in just over a year.
After the dinner, Director Jay Schnoor gathered the group into the music rehearsal room; it’s a small group, made even smaller since some must stay behind and wash dishes and clean up after the meal. Emphasizing its multi-cultural offerings, the concert is named, Carols from Around the World.
“About half are familiar carols,” said Schnoor. “Others are from Brazil, Africa, France and England.”
Schnoor said the concert will follow the traditional Christmas chronology: Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and then the celebration of the birth. Songs will be interspersed with readings. Schnoor’s wife Connie will team up with piano accompanist Dianne Cunningham for a duet of the Bell Carol—on the same piano.
“The sections are well balanced,” Schnoor said, speaking about the choir. “We have good voices and they blend well.”
Schnoor began his musical interests with the piano at age five.
“That’s about 76 years of experience,” he grins. He sang with his high school and various church choirs and “somewhere along the way I took a course on how to direct a choir,” he said. He’s directed “off and on for 40 years.”
Schnoor is an engineer by trade and during the ‘60’s was part owner in what eventually became the Houston County News.
It’s obvious that music has brought the two churches into a special relationship.
“Music is important in everyone’s life,” said Carole Plenge of La Crescent and a member of the Methodist Church. “It adds so much to the worship service.”
And in addition to a fuller worship, Plenge also widened her fellowship. “It’s always fun to get to know these people,” she said, “you meet good friends.”
Plenge also noted that neither distance or doctrine has caused any difficulties. “It runs really smoothly because everyone there is dedicated to it,” she said.
Paul Ulland of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent feels the same way. “I like the camaraderie,” he said. “And I like Jay and his directing.”
Ulland grew up singing in a small country church, eventually participating in high school choir. In college he was chosen to sing as a low bass with Northwestern University’s Vesper Choir.
When he moved to California Ulland joined the Conejo Choraleaires, a community choir Directed by Robert Zimmerman, Head of the music department at California Lutheran University.
Moving to La Crescent in 1971, Ulland sang with the Prince of Peace Choir until it disbanded a few years later with the retirement of Herb and Angie Henning.
“I find choral music to be inspiring in a lot of ways,” said Ulland. “I’d love to see more younger people participate, but there’s not that much carry-over from the high school level.”
The United Methodist Church is located at 520 N. Elm Street in La Crescent.