University of Mary Choral Ensembles Perform Music of the Germans from Russia

Media Release
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.

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