LET’S COOK: Singing in Spain
What are some of your interests? As a child, I enjoyed traveling to many different counties via the encyclopedias in our living room. Traveling to Netherlands was on top of my list. After all who could resist windmills, wooden shoes and colorful tulips. It was the easiest way to travel the world without leaving the house. Music has also been a genuine interest of mine, especially male choral singing.
While attending Minot State University, I sang with the Vagabonds a male chorus started under the direction of Dr. Joseph Hegstad. He was also supported with the boundless spirit of his lovely wife, Jackie. We practiced daily, held a yearly variety show, and traveled with our singing. We made annual trips to Vail, Colorado to sing at Easter Sunrise Service. The memories made on these trips are still of abundant joy. Pam (Berg) Anderson was a pianist for the Vagabonds, and I know of several Rugby and other area gentlemen who sang with the group.
This past June, these two interests allowed me to enjoy some fine singing, fellowship, and travel. I sing with the Heritage Singers of Minot. This group was started under the direction of Dr. Joseph Hegstad, “Doc,” as he was affectionately called. This choral group was created because the gentlemen who sang with the Vagabonds in college still wanted to be singing after their college days. The Heritage Singers were formed in October of 1974. They had a vision to build a men’s choral group that was committed to quality male-chorus music weekly in their community. The group was soon joined by other men in the community as well. The original pianist for the Heritage Singers was Allen Drege, another Rugby connection.
The group annually performs local concerts such as “Lessons and Carols” in December, a winter Variety Show and a Spring Concert and also various sing outs throughout the year. The group has also performed nationally and internationally over the past 18 years, touring Washington D.C., Norway, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and this past June, Spain.
The group consists of nearly 50 male vocalists, who enjoy performing music with an emphasis on patriotic, spiritual, sacred and amusing music. Performances in Spain were mainly in churches the exception being a delightful nursing home. “Ave Maria”, “Colorado Trail”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Red River Valley”, and “Sov’reign Lord, Creator, Righteous One” were some of the songs performed. A highlight of the trip was performing with various choirs from Spain who were gracious and having fine audiences each time. They welcomed us with warm and friendly greetings that reached well beyond our performance time which was evident in their visiting afterwards.
Our first performance was at the Parroquia de la Asuncion in Miraflores de la Sierra. This stunning, longstanding church features burnished robust doors sculpted from generations of use. It was here that we had our first performance with a local choir in front of a magnificent gold accented altar screen. Miraflores means to “watch flowers,” and as we drove from Madrid, clusters of red poppies waved from the fields along with other wildflowers. As we arrived in the village, wrought iron window boxes overflowing with colorful cheer greeted us along with impressive ceramic tiles around windows and doors. Making creative, decorative ceramic tiles is a vast industry in Spain and one of their major exports.
The Heritage Singers are under the direction of Dave Jensen, and other directors include Mike Jensen, Dr. Ken Bowles and Jared Olson. It takes two to harmonize so Dave’s wife Lynn is our pianist. Lynn has a Rugby connection as her parents are Vic and Shirley (Blekeberg) Iverson, and she was born in the Rugby Hospital. We gave several concerts in Spain, and at each concert I noticed that someone from the audience came up and kissed or otherwise thanked Lynn for her beautiful playing. It just goes to prove that what you get out of the piano depends on how you play it. Lynn is a fine example of someone whose greatest joy comes from being fully engaged in something that she enjoys doing, something that stretches her excellence and shows her pure commitment. Many of the pieces we sing feature lovely runs on the piano that add greatly to our music landscape of performance.
We spent time at Segovia and it was here that we had the pleasure of seeing the Roman Aqueduct. It is the most famous symbol of Segovia and probably the finest example of its unique and lasting construction. It is made of granite rocks and consists of 166 arches and 120 pillars arranged in two levels. The Bridge, water-conveyance structure, built under the Roman emperor Trajan is still in use; it carries water 10 miles from the Fro River to the city of Segovia, Spain. This was certainly a historic highlight of the trip and time here was relaxing as we strolled the cobblestone lanes in the rain.
Since space is limited in this column I am going to list just a few of the highlights that enthralled me. The bridge of flowers, Ceramic Museum and the sculpture dedicated to reading all located in Valencia. It was here that we could dip our toes into the Mediterranean Sea and walk along the beach. Toledo is one of Europe’s oldest cities and it sits dramatically atop a gorge that overlooks the Tagus River. The impact, visually and physically, is profound and lasting. It was here that the painting of the great Spanish painter, El Greco, caught my eye. It is also interesting to note that marzipan is very popular here and is made is a variety of colorful shapes and sold in cute shops.
Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992 and smartly turned all of the Olympic buildings into public spaces in this major cosmopolitan city. Here highlights included seeing design by Gaudi, Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia, the largest unfinished Roman Catholic Church in the world which features many detailed sculptures on its exterior. Construction has been has been ongoing for 135 years and is slated to be completed in 2026. We sang at Monastery of Montserrat which home to one of the most important religious sites in Spain. It has a beautiful cathedral which was filled with hundreds of visitors who come to hear choirs perform.
It was an honor to travel with the Heritage Singers to Spain and yes, we even made it to the Netherlands. However, it was only to switch planes for our journey home. The song of travel will remain with the Heritage Singers, but each verse does offer the pursuit of a new journey.
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