The Sonshine Singers will kick off the holiday season with two Christmas concerts instead of one this year.
The interdenominational Christian choir will sing at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Dec. 7 at Corpus Christi Church, 402 N. Eighth St.
"That's something new for us. We're opening up the December ministry to a Thursday night," said Director Armona Redenius. "Mainly because many people have said, 'We work weekends, and we never get to hear the singers. Is there any way you'd consider doing a weeknight?'"
-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Armona Redenius directs the Sonshine Singers at a recent rehearsal for their annual Christmas concert. With only five rehearsals to put the show together, Redenius said the results are “a God thing.”
Admission is free, and a freewill offering will be taken. CDs of the concert will also be available for purchase at the door.
The congregation will be invited to sing along as part of the evening.
The group will celebrate its 15th anniversary this March, and Redenius said some of this year's music was selected from its history.
"We're doing a combination of not only the favorites of Sonshine, but also those that were more challenging," she said. "I always try to provide a little bit of a challenge for them because there are so many talented vocalists.
"When you hear a church three-quarters full of just vocalists, wow. It's a powerful setting."
Janece Valentine will be the pianist for this concert, with Dean Davis playing drums. Davis will be featured on "Little Drummer Boy."
"He was inducted into the (Iowa) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We are blessed to have him," Redenius said.
The 108 choir members come from all throughout Iowa, representing 40 different churches.
Scott Fortune drives about 2 1/2 hours one way for rehearsals from his home in Cresco, about 10 miles south of the Minnesota border.
He lived in Fort Dodge until 2003, and has been involved in the Singers for about half of their 15 years of ministry.
"It's just a good choir to be a part of. It's like a family," Fortune said. "Armona's just neat. If you sing under her and don't get enthused ...
"You get a feeling when you sing with Armona that no one else gives you. She inspires you."
The choir's rendition of "Mary, Did You Know?" is one of his favorites, he said, along with "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," which features soloist John Zuerrer.
Zuerrer also inspired Mike and Sheryl Patten, of Spencer, to join the group.
"This is our fourth year," Sheryl Patten said. "My friend John Zuerrer is one of the co-directors, and he's asked us for years to come and sing."
This will be their first time doing the Christmas concert, she said; other years they have only done the March ministry.
"Armona does a great job with the selection of pieces, and the variety," she said. "It's challenging music, but it's very fun to perform.
"And people around here love it so much; it's great to play for audiences that enjoy sacred music like that."
One song that stuck out to Patten was called "Breath of Heaven," a song about Jesus' mother.
"It's called Mary's song, and it's how the Holy Spirit works with her and some of the feelings she must have had," Patten said. "It's a very emotional piece. I guess as a woman I identify with that."
Redenius also had a favorite this year.
"'Sleep, Little King' is probably the one that touches me the most, because it incorporates 'Silent Night' right smack in the middle of it," she said. "I think for many of the singers as well as for me it takes you back to your childhood. One of the first songs that many people learn is 'Silent Night,' and there's a certain reverence about that song.
"When the singers sing it, it comes from their heart, not from their vocal chords. I think that song touches all of us, and the congregation, more than any we've ever done over Christmas."