Making Hearts Lighter with Song

Minnesota State Mankato’s concert choir and chamber singers present their winter concert.

December 15, 2021 |

The sound of perfectly blended voices soared above the packed pews at St. John the Baptist church in downtown Mankato on Sunday afternoon, December 5. Minnesota State Mankato’s concert and chamber choirs had been rehearsing all semester and the annual concert—cancelled last year due to COVID-19—was as much a celebration as it was a showcase of their talents.

This is the second time the choirs have performed in public since the pandemic shutdowns of 2020. The first was their fall concert, Waiting for the Morning. For the semester end, director of choral activities, Dr. Aaron Humble chose the theme Let Your Heart Be Light in hopes of buoying the spirits of the audience and his singers.

“For our first concert back in the fall, I felt like we needed to really acknowledge the trauma of the pandemic while also looking forward,” said Humble. “For this concert, the students gave all they had and were just so tired so I wanted to keep it light.”

And it was. Student singers tripped gently through familiar carols like Deck the Halls, Good Ale and Go Tell it on the Mountain. It was also in turn poignant and moving, demonstrated in the slightly slower tempo of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, the song that inspired the concert title, and Love Came Down at Christmas, featuring oboist Rachel Domingue.

About mid-way through the concert, Humble turned to address the audience, reminding those present what it means to gather together—especially after nearly two years apart. Even through masks (singers and audience members) sitting side by side and absorbing the sounds of the holiday season together truly was special. And it’s safe to say, the audience exited into the cold evening air just a little bit lighter than when they came in.

Watch recorded selections from Let Your Heart Be Light

A Last Minute Save

Choir director Aaron Humble emailed Schulz four pieces of music.

“After I printed out the music and looked through it, I decided to take on the challenge,” Schulz said. “I'm so glad I did! I was a bit stressed and nervous about accompanying four pieces of music I had never seen before and getting them up to performance level in a short period of time, but it was an absolutely amazing experience.”

Schulz, an experienced accompanist who earned a Master of Music degree from Minnesota State Mankato in 1991, also serves as pianist and organist for her church, Bethlehem Lutheran. After playing for the 9am service and a 10:15am choir rehearsal, she pulled out the Minnesota State Mankato music and rehearsed for a couple of hours. Humble joined her at Bethlehem to work through the set. “I needed to get used to his conducting style,” she said. The two then met the student singers at St. John the Baptist to run through the pieces once or twice before the 3pm concert.

“I think it turned out pretty well given the circumstances,” she said. “Playing a lovely Ritmuller grand piano and being surrounded by a truly professional 80-voice choir is something I have no words to describe.”

Before Schulz began the final piece of the concert Humble took a moment to thank her for stepping in to save the day. “As you can see,” he said, “less than 24 hours notice was apparently plenty of time.”

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