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People Get Ready

Manson Meridian Singers to take the stage

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Singers are ready for the Manson Meridians 2024 show "People Get Ready" at a recent rehersal. The show will be Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Manson high school.

MANSON — Change — and peace — are the themes to watch for as the Manson Meridian Singers get ready for their 52nd season.

The annual musical extravaganza will feature songs from across the decades — if not across the universe — at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Manson Northwest Webster High School auditorium.

“It’s a great mix of music,” said singer and Meridian board president Dave George, “from funny, to religious, to the Beatles, Bob Dylan — it’s a mix of everything.”

The opening song, “People Get Ready,” gives the show its name, Director Andrea Christians said.

“It started out as just a compilation of songs that spoke to me,” said Christians, who is in her second year directing the group. “It started to take shape around the theme of change. That’s why it’s called ‘People Get Ready.'”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Director Andrea Christians brings the group in for the opening song "People Get Ready" at rehearsal Monday for the Manson Meridian Singers 2024 show.

“I think when the Beatles wrote, ‘Nothing’s gonna change my world,’ they’re thinking — this is what it is. At that same time, Bob Dylan was writing, ‘The Times, They Are A-Changin.'”

A challenging choral arrangement of “It Is Well With My Soul” emphasizes peace in the midst of change, while Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a perennial favorite, Christians said.

The show will end with uplifting numbers, such as “Rhythm of Life” and “Everybody Rejoice.”

Trish Mernka, of Rockwell City, is in her fourth year accompanying the group, and will be joined by Jon Merritt on trap set, Joe Sutter on bass guitar and Cody Nielsen on acoustic guitar.

“Why We Sing,” the title of one of the songs, is easy to answer for Shantell Rasty, who is singing for her second year with the group — it’s just for the love of singing.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
T.H. Hoefing joins in on cello when he's not singing for this year's Manson Meridian Singers show.

“I teach little kids how to sing,” said Rasty, who is the K-6 music teacher for Sac City schools, “so singing together with people who can stay on pitch is fun — not that the kids aren’t good.”

Her favorite piece has been one from a more recent era.

“Probably ‘Hallelujah.’ It’s nostalgic,” Rasty said. “It came from (the movie) ‘Shrek,’ and that’s what I grew up watching, so I just always loved that song.”

Cohen may have written the song in 1984, but it didn’t receive mainstream popularity until a cover was featured in the movie in 2001.

“Hallelujah” has been a favorite for the whole group, Christians said.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Accompanist Trish Mernka sings her solo during the opening of the Manson Meridian Singers show

“I didn’t know how much they would love singing it,” she said. “It comes together organically because they love it so much.”

That love for the music helps the group on the more difficult melodies.

“‘It Is Well With My Soul’ has been a real challenge for us,” she said. “I think the text resonates with them, and they have risen to the musical challenge.”

It also serves as a tribute to the group’s longtime bass player, Brad Bleam, who passed away suddenly last year.

“Brad Bleam played bass with the group 41 years,” George said. “We will have a quiet moment in our show we will dedicate to Brad.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Jim Moorman, one of the group's newest members, rehearses his solo, a love song for his wife.

The singers include both familiar faces and some new voices this year. Jim Mormann will be singing a solo in his first time with the group, after a medical emergency kept him from performing last year.

“I tried to sing in it last year, and I made it to two practices,” Mormann said. “I gave two tickets to the nurses.”

Mormann will sing “If” as a love song to his wife of 52 years.

“She hasn’t heard that song before,” Mormann said. “It’s funny, we went to a Super Bowl party in Missouri and drove eight hours to get back today. I turned on the radio and what comes on but ‘If’ by Bread.

“Next year I’d like to do something by the same band; they’ve got some beautiful songs. But that’s back in my era, in the ’50s and ’60s.”

“There’s so much talent in this group. It’s really fun,” Mormann said. “Trish, and the band, we are so blessed. … I’m really looking forward to it.”

“I really want to mention all the hard work the members have put into the show, and how good they sound,” George said. “People need to come, because the music’s awesome.”

People Get Ready

What: Manson Meridian Singers

52nd annual show

When: 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Kate Toben Auditorium,

Manson Northwest Webster High School in Manson

Tickets: $10 for adults, $7 for students.

To order, call 712-469-3116.

Tickets will also be available at the door.

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