University of Mary Choral Ensembles Perform Music
of the Germans from Russia
March 19, 2004
From Tom Ackerman, Director of Communications, University
of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota
A rich heritage lives on in many communities of the Upper Midwest,
including North Dakota. This spirit comes from the Germans from
Russia who fled Eastern Europe in the late 1800’s and early
1900’s looking for a better life in America. Many settled
in southern North Dakota. They brought with them their work ethic,
their cuisine and music.
To commemorate and document this vibrant culture, Prairie Public
Television, in cooperation with the University of Mary Choirs, are
presenting concerts featuring music of the Germans from Russia.
The concerts are free and open to the public, and portions of the
performances will be used in the Prairie Public Television documentary
about German Russia music traditions. The concerts will take place
in Strasburg and Bismarck, and will also included performances by
the Gospel “Alive” Singers from Kulm, and folk music
performed by John Gross of Napoleon.
“It’s an honor to be part of this documentary project,”
adds Justin Binek, University of Mary Choral Director. “We’re
happy we can bring to life through music the proud heritage of this
culture for all generations to enjoy.”
Choirs will perform numbers from the German Russia musical traditions
practiced in Russia and North America. Hymns sung by congregations,
choir music, and secular folk songs have been selected from a variety
of sources. Guest performers will present additional examples from
these traditions. Saturday, April 3, at 2 p.m., the University of
Mary Concert Choir, folk singer John Gross, and the “Alive”
Gospel Singers will perform at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic
Church in Strasburg, N.D. Sunday, April 4, at 3 p.m., the University
of Mary Vocal Jazz II, Men’s Honor Choir Quartet, Chamber
Choir and John Gross will perform at the Chapel of Our Lady of Annunciation
on the University of Mary campus in Bismarck, N.D. Both concerts
will feature different cultural music.
“This is a unique opportunity, and a wonderful learning experience,”
says Binek. “Our musicians are getting a new appreciation
for how much music played in the role of these settlers.”
The performances are funded in part by a grant from the North Dakota
Council on the Arts and the North Dakota Humanities Council and
with support from the members of Prairie Public Television. The
concerts will be included in an upcoming documentary about German
Russian music traditions, the fourth in Prairie Public Television’s
award-winning German Russia heritage series. The production is scheduled
to premiere in March 2005 and will air regionally and perhaps nationally.
Reprinted with permission of Tom Ackerman.