‘Beauty Surrounds’

Nelson leads Fort Dodge Choral Society May concert to honor longtime director Bruce Perry

Webster City High School choral instructor Greta Nelson is the new artistic director for the Fort Dodge Choral Society. Nelson has been leading the Choral Society for the past year, following the death of longtime director Bruce Perry last June.

To every musical composition, a number of elements are required to complete a single piece. There may be a refrain, a bridge, a change in tempo that foreshadows something different to come — a sad ending, a promising new beginning.

The Fort Dodge Choral Society has known a little of each in the past year. The loss of its long-time artistic director, Bruce Perry, was heart-breaking for those who shared his passion for music.

Perry, a Sac City native, was just shy of 67 when he passed away in June 2023, not long after the close of the Choral Society’s 2022-23 season. He had conducted the ensemble for three decades and left a powerful mark on the local musical community.

Greta Nelson, choral instructor at Webster City High School, had been singing with the Fort Dodge Choral Society only a few years when Perry passed. But singing under his direction filled a need in her to continue growing as a singer.

“Singing with the ensemble, under Bruce’s direction, getting ideas from him, it allowed me to keep learning as a singer and conductor,” she said.

Bruce Perry

Nelson, a Minnesota native, was named to the permanent position of artistic director and led the ensemble through the current season, which wraps up on May 5. A graduate of Wartburg College, Nelson said her interest in music began very early in life.

“I grew up in Northfield, Minnesota, south of Minneapolis,” she said. “It’s a very musically rich community. I grew up singing with the Northfield Youth Choir, which was held on the campus of St. Olaf College, a very well-known music school.”

She first considered music therapy before choosing music education as her career path, which was part of the reason she chose Wartburg.

“I started as a music therapy major, and then my first semester in choir, I just knew that I wanted to keep doing choir the rest of my life,” Nelson said.

She started at WCHS, right out of college in 2019. Her goal with students is to help them discover their own talent and learn more about the meaning of music as a piece of literature.

“I like to sing, and we always go beyond notes and rhythm,” Nelson said. “We get to dive into what certain songs mean. It can be more emotional, more meaningful when you learn the ‘why’ of what we do in choral music.”

She joined the Choral Society in 2022, after getting a good start as a new educator, and discovering that she also needed to keep learning herself.

“I had been in Webster City a few years, and I had gotten my footing,” as a teacher, she noted. “I wanted to continue growing as a musician and be in a setting where I could be a singer again.”

The Fort Dodge Choral Society was a perfect fit. She got to know people who shared her love of music. Stepping in to the role of artistic director was unexpected, but seemed to be a natural transition. She would have big shoes to fill with Perry’s passing, but took comfort in the way fellow singers reached out to her.

“I was encouraged by members of the board to apply,” Nelson said. “I debated on applying, but the one thing that motivated me to do so was the welcoming nature of the singers in the ensemble and just how passionate they are about choral music and striving for choral excellence.”

Nelson is already looking forward to the 2024-25 season, which will begin with an October concert. The Choral Society is hoping to bring an artist-in-residence for its final show of the season next year, just to offer a glimpse into future plans.

For Nelson, working with the members of the Choral Society has made all the extra work worthwhile.

“These ensembles wouldn’t be what they are without the people who fill out each section,” she said. “That’s been rewarding.”


May concert to honor Perry

The final concert of the season is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Fort Dodge. “Beauty Surrounds” is the theme for the concert, which will include a new commission by Midwest composer Jordan Jinosko.

For Nelson, her initial season as conductor has been a rewarding experience.

“The tradition that’s been with the Fort Dodge Choral Society all these years really motivates me to give them my best,” Nelson said. “I’m really striving to give our singers and the audience a fulfilling experience.”

This concert will include a large chamber ensemble, with a variety of instruments from violin to flute, and many more. A featured piece will be “Requiem Brevis,” a four-movement work commissioned in Perry’s honor. This liturgical text is performed in Latin, traditional for any requiem. It is one of several numbers that concert-goers are sure to enjoy.

The number of singers varies from concert to concert, with about 40 set to perform in the May concert. New singers are always welcome to apply. For more information about joining the group, visit their website at fdchoralsociety.org.

Tickets for the concert are $12 each, available at the door. Students are admitted free of charge.

‘Beauty Surrounds’

What: Fort Dodge Choral Society concert

When: 3 p.m.

Sunday, May 5

Where: St. Olaf Lutheran Church, 239 N. 11th St.

Tickets: $12 each, available at the door.

Students are admitted free of charge.


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