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In tribute to Catharine B. Hornstein

By Staff | Dec 19, 2014

This picture (submitted by Kathy Blessum) is of the Rugby High School Christmas Concert in 1954 with the mass choir performing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. It was directed by Catharine B. Hornstein, with accompanists Sandra Engen and Gwen Hamilton.

This concert had additional voices from the junior high. As the new high school was not built yet, the concerts were given in the gymnasium of the old high school downtown.

We were all assembled on the bleachers with the audience seated on the main floor. This was our final number and ended the evening on a spectacular note. Each year the music department performed a Christmas Extravaganza with many small groups, soloists, and various instruments.

The program always included traditional Christmas music as well as lighter fare. Mrs. Hornstein was a marvel at producing, directing and getting music from everyone involved. We all worked very hard to make it as close to perfect as possible, and the audience always went away with an uplifted spirit.

If anyone in high school wanted to sing in the chorus, they could. All that was required was that you give it your best. She could find talent in anyone who tried. Boys and Girls groups (Chorallaires and Lorelei) as well as trios, sextets, octets, etc., performed special numbers. There is no way of knowing how many people her music influenced and touched – students, parents, total strangers.

She took our music department to television and radio performances, as well as participation in divisional contests. Our chorus was featured in the First Chair of America, a National Yearbook for outstanding high school bands, orchestras and choruses from all reaches of the United States.

Mrs. Hornstein worked very hard all year-round for the music department of Rugby High School and helped us make our mark. We – and she – were well respected in music circles around the state. Some of the best experiences of our high school years came from our time in the Rugby High School music department, and we were all proud to be a part of that.

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