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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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home : community : community news May 30, 2016

12/6/2012 7:30:00 AM
Hymns and Hyrs prepping for upcoming holiday concert performances
Chorus to share songs of the season

Karla Wotruba

What began as a small group that enjoyed singing together is now a chorus of voices that share their musical talents in venues around the Northwoods. The Hymns and Hyrs will be performing at several upcoming Christmas concerts that share the songs of the season with the area.

The group now has 25 members, and performs gospel, pop, and even '50s and '60s music.

"We just had a group of people that enjoyed singing together, a small group, and then we just kind of grew," said Bea Kerner, director and accompanist of the group. "We started out doing mostly guitar, and church gigs, and then kind of expanded into doing some other things."

Kerner writes many of the arrangements herself, working without a computer and handwriting music in what she calls her "chicken scratch." Her husband Jerry serves as the group's music librarian.

"If we hear something we like, I'll transcribe it off of a CD and write arrangements for the group," she said.

The Hymns and Hyrs rehearse more often around Christmas and their other performances during the year, but otherwise take a break when they are not performing. They've been together for nearly 15 years, adding to the rich musical scene in the area.

"There are so many musicians here. There are Dixieland bands, there are Jazz bands, there's Rock 'n' Roll," she said. "Some of the group is in a Rock 'n' Roll band with me, the band Fair Play, and we do '50s and '60s music. There's everything up here in the Northwoods, which kind of shocks people that come from the big cities."

The group will be featuring some of that talent in the upcoming performances, including Laurie Timm, flutist and soprano; Chris Bruso and Diane Mueller, guitar; Teresa Seabloom, bass; and Joanie Nelson, percussion; and Lana Dettlaff, harp. Rhinelander High School student Anna Engel will be joining the group on oboe for the Christmas concerts.

"It's difficult to play it well," noted Kerner. "It's unusual to find a good oboe player."

Kerner previewed some highlights of the upcoming performances.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, they will perform before a memorial service at Carlson Funeral Home, as part of a program called "Christmas Memories."

"When we do the Carlson Memorial service, we do a little concert ahead of time with the harp and guitars," she said.

At Nicolet College on Dec. 9, they will perform with the Nicolet Male Chorus, the Nicolet Choraliers, the Learning in Retirement Chorus, and the Lakeland Barbershop Quartet in the Community Holiday Concert. "At Nicolet College, we have five choral groups singing, and they're all different, so that will be a big variety of music," Kerner said. "We have some carol singing for the audience to join in."

The chorus will also perform at the Three Lakes Center for the Arts on Dec. 15 in "The Gospel Chorus: A Christmas Concert." Kerner said one part of the program is focused on peace, including Sibelius' "Song of Peace," and a song called "Grown Up Christmas List." They will also have the audience take part, singing the three-part round in "Dona Nobis Pacem."

"It's so simple, and so gorgeous," she said.

The group's talents and love of singing have kept them performing for almost 15 years, adding a talented chorus group to the Northwoods performing arts scene. Kerner said they have a lot of fun together, too.

"We do some difficult music, some difficult a cappella music, and we do some fun stuff," she said. "We have a real good time together."

Karla Wotruba may be reached at karla@

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