Choir adding harmony to documentary

Music of the Germans from Russia to be focus of television project

Jamestown College Magazine, Jamestown, North Dakota, Winter, 2004

Courtesy of the Jamestown College Office of Publications

Members of the Jamestown College Concert Choir are lending their voices to a national public television project chronicling the music of Germans from Russia.

"Heimat: Music from Home" is the fourth in a collection of documentaries produced by Prairie Public Television about the history and culture of one of the largest ethnic groups in the region.

"It's very exciting for our students," says Dr. Donald Christianson, the choir's conductor. "They're just coming to understand how big this project is."

The documentary will include footage of the choir performing some of the songs, and the music will also be heard in the background throughout the program.

Homer Rudolf '60, Richmond, Virginia, is the chief researcher and scriptwriter for the project. A retired music professor with German - Russian roots and a board member for the Germans from Russia Historical Society, Rudolf became involved with the project after meeting Michael Miller, the bibliographer from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University.

"We are including both religious and secular music," Rudolf says. "The church music was often heard in the homes."

The choir will perform hymns and choral numbers during the German - Russian portion of their spring concert tour. Prairie Public Television will record the choir's performance at the Basilica of St. James on March 21 and at First Lutheran Church, Harvey, N.D., on March 25. The concert program includes hymns, choir anthems and folk songs.

Choir member Adam Emter '04, Jamestown, will serve as narrator during the concert.

"It's more than just a North Dakota story," says Bob Dambach, director of television at Prairie Public Broadcasting. "It's the story of an entire immigrant group."

Dambach says the German-Russian heritage documentaries began in 1996 as a partnership between Prairie Public Television and North Dakota State University. Audiences enjoyed "The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie," "Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia," and "Prairie Crosses, Prairie Voices: Iron Crosses of the Great Plains."

The documentary crew will travel around the country conducting interviews and possibly gather more footage in Germany and Ukraine. Additional music will come from the University of Mary Choir, Alive Gospel Choir of Kulm, N.D., and recordings by smaller groups and a famous North Dakota German-Russian, Lawrence Welk.

"We thought it would be important to have a couple of college choirs perform this music," Dambach says. "It's important to take the music out in public, and we'd like to release a CD of the music."

The documentary is planned to air in late February or early March, 2005.

Our appreciation is extended to Jamestown College for permission to use this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller