LET’S COOK: Heritage Singers Variety Show
Hey, guess what started in Minot this week? I will give you a clue. It has to do with singing, comical skits, and it has been an annual event for the past 32 years. If you guessed the Heritage Singers Variety Show, you are right. Those of you who have been to the show know it is variety with a capital V. It has a theme which serves as the main avenue for the show, but on the side street, you can always bet there will be some wonderful singing and silly humor. You will also come to realize that every Heritage singer possesses some star quality-granted it does take some longer than others to reveal this! What you will notice at once, however, are members of this male chorus who enjoy making people smile while performing an assortment of music.
Creating the Heritage Singers was the idea of the late Dr. Joseph Hegstad, who was fondly know as Doc. He started the group and the first practices were held at he and his wife, Jackie’s, home. As the word got around about this vocal group, their home became too small and practices were moved to Christ Lutheran Church. With this move came the first accompanist, Allen Drege, who was a long-time organist at Christ Lutheran.
Doc Hegstad was a beloved educator at Minot State University. He was kind, generous, demanding, and capable of great self-sacrifice to promote music not only at the university but in the Magic City as well. His style of teaching was venturesome in the sense that he encouraged students to explore the world, while singing. He and Jackie did numerous choir tours with students in the United States and abroad. He directed the Vagabonds, the male chorus at Minot State, and it was here that he planted in several souls the interest to enjoy male singing for a lifetime. His choirs were the on ramps for cultivating this action for life. So, when he started the Heritage Singers, many members were former students, but he also encouraged others to join as well.
Doc taught that music is art, music is work, and that a friendship with music can last a lifetime. Through music, we can hear and see beauty. When I joined the Heritage Singers six years ago, I could see many of these traits in the members. For example, Warren Martin is a charter member of the Heritage Singers and he is also our historian. He has a fine memory for recalling the early days of Doc’s foresight. He also has plenty of knowledge on the “taking a chance” element of the Heritage Singers–the birth of the Variety Show which was the performance of H.M.S. Pinafore. Warren can recall many of the shows and locations: the former Elks and Eagles buildings, the Fairgrounds, and the former Sevens Restaurant. Currently, the show is being presented at the Sleep Inn.
Rick Stevens, another long-time member of the group, recalls his favorite variety show-The Flintstones where he played Barney. He goes on to tell that fellow member Mike Pankow built a wood Flintstone style car that was sold after the show! See what I mean by natural aptitude of these singers!
Speaking of selling, Pastor Don Andrews started the Silent Auction for the Heritage Singers and is still involved today. He not only can preach, but he is a master at collecting unique items for this long-time tradition at each variety show.
Currently leading the Heritage Singers is our director, Dave Jensen, longtime music educator here in Minot. He and his brother, Mike, grew up in Westhope where their parents Glenn and Mary owned the Coast to Coast Hardware Store. The parents thought hardware coast to coast, but these two Westhope Wonders think music coast to coast.
What is a show without a band? The Heritage Singers Band has many dedicated members who return each year under the direction of Dave Jensen. Taking care of the percussion is steadfast Justin Goetz and the Jensen’s are not the only family affair because Bob Briggs and daughter Dawnmarie Bergeron also team up here. Perhaps some of you can remember family members who enjoyed this group? Wayne Schempp is on the trumpet, and his first question to his doctor after major surgery was “Can I play my trumpet?” We are all glad to see and hear him return to the band.
The show over the years has provided a fashion statement. Member Mark Preiss is a resourceful member who has courageously handled the details of assuming leading lady roles. He appears on stage in one-of-a-kind fashions created by Dior Dorothy. Preiss is an amusing entertainer and can switch from skirt and pumps to Elvis leather with ease.
Lynn Jensen has been our accompanist for 40 years. She is gifted pianist who is exceedingly optimistic– even when the group is missing notes. She is the bright spot of our group and good-natured. Doc Hegstad knew that she would be a great fit, and that is why he suggested to Dave to bring his wife to practice.
Who writes the script for the show? Many people ask this question and in the early days it was often a group. For many years, we were blessed with the creative talents of John Scheeler who recently retired and moved from Minot. Appearing again was the Heritage aptitude of Chad Spokely to write this year’s script. The show this year does involve a storm, some flashy fashion statements, and for sure plenty of laughs and some fine male choral singing. The show will be performed February 20, 21, 22 and 27, 28 and 29. Tickets are available at the Minot Area Council of Arts.
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