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Heavenly songs

Wegner writes choral music for his students

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
St. Edmond Catholic School Vocal Music Director Ben Wegner is all smiles after a choral piece he wrote called “Little Lord” was performed by his students at the 2019 Christmas Concert.

During the 2019 Christmas choral concert at St. Edmond Catholic School, the students’ voices filled the auditorium with song for an audience of parents, teachers and other guests.

One of the songs performed, “Little Lord,” was written by Ben Wegner, director of vocal music at St. Edmond.

As they sang, his focus was forward toward the choir and his students.

“The biggest part was staying in the moment,” Wegner said. “Focus on the students. They work really hard.”

He was honored to be able to share his work and thanked the audience.

“You’ve entrusted me with your kids’ music education,” he said. “And I get to teach them something of mine.”

He’s quick to recognize those students.

“It’s special to see the kids digging in and doing their best,” he said.

The students shared the stage with Shelly Bottorff on piano and Amanda Warren on violin.

“It’s awesome to listen to such talent,” he said.

Wegner was first inspired to write choral music in high school. He grew up in Minnesota’s Twin Cities and attended Luther College in St. Paul.

“There’s a very robust culture of choral music,” he said. “I also had the opportunity to create in college. I had a lot of friends that wrote.”

His first piece, from high school, was performed in public.

“I gave it to my high school teacher,” he said. “She said ‘Let’s do it in concert.'”

Whether to write the music first or the words first varies from creation to creation.

“When I wrote ‘He Leadeth Me,’ the tune came first; ‘Little Lord’ it was the text that came first,” he said.

Sometimes, Wegner will find a piece of text that’s in the public domain and then write the music for it.

Wegner has written a number of works on commission from churches, choir and choral groups.

His first was for a group in Ohio called “The Singers.” He’s currently working on a piece for a church in Minnesota.

He plans on continuing to teach his students and write on a part-time basis.

“I write as the spirit moves me or as I get asked,” he said.

Doing it full time isn’t for him.

“It’s an incredible grind,” he said. “There’s a lot of self promotion and you’re writing non-stop.”

He’s inspired to write for several reasons.

“It gives me a chance to leave my mark for on the world and make an impact on those around me,” he said.

Wegner has been teaching at St. Edmond for three years. He’s very happy with the choir.

“The choir is the biggest it’s been,” he said. “We have 79 kids. There’s some super talented kids. We had four All State this year. We have a cast of 55 for our musical and 25 to 30 to help with tech. Many of them have received Division I honors at past solo and small ensemble festivals.”

Wegner also enjoys singing. He’s been performing since his youth.

“I was in the Minnesota Boy’s Choir from third to 12th grade,” he said. “I was in the Nordic Choir at Luther and now I sing with the Des Moines Choral Society.”

It’s an important part of his life.

“Life is weird when choir isn’t there,” he said.

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