Celebration of Life Choir

The Celebration of Life Choir, 2019. From the back left members include: John Steinke, Erin O’Connell, John Montgomery, Patrick Wagoner and Danny Bos. Third row from left: Rem Kutchara, Sandra Knouse, Cookie Wood and Kim Fisher. Second row from left: Judi Thallas, Danise Sayles, Rachel Salnicky, Ellen Jaco and Linda Vanderwal. Front row from left: Peggy Golden, Phyllis Holst, Karen William’s, Jackie Churchill, Dawn Vahl, Jan Butts and Jan Hoden.

The Celebration of Life Choir has much to celebrate.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the choir. It is showcasing this milestone with its “Joy! He Shall Reign” performances the first two weekends of December, directed by Jan Hoden.

“When the choir was first formed 45 years ago they started with a song called ‘Lets Just Praise the Lord.’ For years and years, we opened with that song,” said Peggy Golden, president of the board and interpreter for the hearing impaired.

Celebration of Life Choir was established in 1974 when the first director, Dick Shaw, wanted to perform a Christmas Contata, but did not have enough members in his church, a press release provided by the choir stated.

The choir began by performing one weekend in December at Chanticleer Theater, but has since grown by showcasing a variety of styles from more modern to more classic, and expanding equipment.

Previous locations the choir performed at include Bayliss Park, Mall of the Bluffs, Crossroads Mall, Orpheum Theater, Western Heritage Museum, Durham Museum, retirement communities and various churches generally within a two-hour radius of the area.

The song “Let’s Just Praise the Lord,” began multiple performances but was phased out. The choir is bringing it back this year in honor of the anniversary.

“We’re encouraging any past choir members to stand and sing that opening song,” she said.

Just over 20 choir members will perform this year.

Golden joined the choir in 1985, when she was pregnant and has been involved with the group ever since.

“I came in as an interpreter for the hearing impaired,” she said. “My kids have either been part of the choir or signed with me. My daughters were 3 years old when they sang in the children’s choir.”

Rachel Alnicky, co-secretary and road crew member, joined three years ago and also enjoys her experience in the choir.

“In the past 45 years, the mission remains the same: we come together as a family and we want to praise the Lord through the music we share with everyone. We want people to know how far we’ve come,” Alnicky said. “We’ve had families singing with us 20 or 30 years ago and now we have other generations singing with us now it really is a family not just a choir.”

Upcoming performances are listed below:

Saturday: 7 p.m. — Epworth United Methodist, 2447 Ave. B

Sunday: 10:30 a.m. — Twin Cities Christian, 4220 Gifford Road

Sunday: 3 p.m. — Eastside Christian, 331 Bennett Ave.

Dec. 7: 5:30 p.m. — St. John Lutheran 633 Willow Ave.

Dec. 8: 9:45 a.m. — Southside Christian, 1919 South 10th St.

Dec. 8: 3 p.m. — Our Savior’s Lutheran, 600 Bluff St.

A 45th anniversary celebration will be held after the final performance Sunday at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Present and past members are welcome to the celebration to enjoy food and reminisce.

Free will offerings are accepted to support the choir although the performances are free and open to the public.

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