Music has always been an important part of my life. I took voice and piano lessons at an early age but enjoyed singing most of all. I was introduced to sacred major works by a children’s choir director at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Greeley—Mrs. Marlene Bunge, the pastor’s wife. The “children” included high school and some college students. The music included Salvation is Created and The Messiah. I was so impressed with the college voice majors who sang with us including members of “The Choralaires” conducted by Dr. Howard Skinner. I was determined to be part of that group but it disbanded before I entered college (CSC/UNC) to study vocal music. In high school, I performed with Modern Choir conducted by Harold Hamler. Harold had us performing music beyond what was normally considered high school choral music including Brahms’ Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes. I also performed in three high school musicals–My Fair Lady, Camelot, and The Sound of Music (albeit in the chorus), and also in numerous theatrical productions directed by Dr. Steven Girault, who later became UNC’s Theatre Director. I was also chosen for All-State Choir my senior year.
I enrolled as a vocal performance major at what was Colorado State College at the time. My sightsinging class was probably the most valuable course I ever took and has kept me in good stead every since! I suspended my enrollment for almost 30 years but never quit singing; I finished my music degree in 1997 and went on to get my master’s degree in English five years later. On a personal note, I was married, had two amazing children, Mark and Amy, and then divorced. I met my wonderful husband of 42+ years, Jim, during a chance meeting when he started work at Michener Library where I was to work just two more weeks and then move on to work in the Graduate School; we had Jonathan who has blessed with his wife, Pam, and our darling granddaughter, Nadia.
However, it was during a conversation with my dearest friend of more than 45 years (Bill Green) at Michener Library that we realized we had both been at All-State Choir when it was conducted by Dr. Howard Skinner and both of us had been in Modern Choir directed by Harold Hamler. We also agreed that we missed singing in a group and after contacting Harold, he agreed that both of us could join The Greeley Chorale in 1974. Nope—we didn’t have to audition since he said he knew what we sounded like—he said I had always been “his angel” when singing the high notes. So I have never taken a leave in all those years where I would have to audition—what if I didn’t get in again!???
Needless to say, I’ve been there through several choral directors—Harold Hamler, Michael Jothen, James Kim, to name a few. When Michael Jothen was choral director, we went on our first concert tour in 1985—we thought it was our one and only! It was a whirlwind trip of Germany, the Netherlands, and England—memorable was the bus making a u-turn in front of Harrods in London (shopping of course). As I thought our 1985 tour was my only chance to go “across the pond,” I took a train/ferry to Paris and spent a week on my own seeing the sights (I had had 3 years of high school and one year of college French). Not long after our tour, Michael Jothen left and Carl Gerbrandt became our choral director. He saw great things for us and they happened soon thereafter—The Greeley Chorale was invited to sing the National Anthem at The 1988 World’s Fair in Brisbane, Australia! Thus began concert tours every four years—all except the last two were with our intrepid director, Dr. Carl Gerbrandt. Memories of Chorale trips include being one of only three international choirs to perform at the 1992 Vienna International Choir Festival (a piece of the ceiling at the Votivekirke fell as Connie Otto sang a solo from Mozart’s Requiem); singing a secular program in front of spa goers who were lounging in their robes in Budapest, Hungary; singing liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and singing Mozart’s Requiem at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice (2005); performing impromptu at the Ephesus amphitheater in Turkey (2009); and singing most recently (2017) in Leipzig at J. S. Bach’s home church. My husband, Jim, has joined me on more than half of these concert tours and proudly calls himself my “groupie.” Who knows where he will join me as we plan for another concert tour in 2021? Dr. Galen Darrough is our current choral director. He has a rich history of leading choral groups and we are proud to have him as our director. What music will he introduce us to in the future? I am excited to find out! Singing has always brought joy and “goosebumps” while performing some of this world’s sacred and sublime music, not to mention some of the secular pieces that make me laugh. Needless to say, The Greeley Chorale has been and continues to be a vital part of my life. I was a former public relations co-director and costume director for most of the 17 years of the Madrigal Feast. I continued my role as the women’s costume director for the next 15+ years, relinquishing that role recently due to my living some distance away from Greeley. I retain my role as finance director (I keep track of income and expenditures) for the Chorale’s fundraiser—Pops and Pasta–which partially supports those of us who travel. We hope to have two more sold-out performances this year!