‘Rise Up and Sing’

HUMBOLDT – Next month, the music will rise.

The Humboldt Community Chorus will present its annual concert, titled “Rise Up and Sing” this year, on Feb. 1, 2 and 3. Fans of the chorus will enjoy the usual big choir sound from the 70 voices, the mix of full choir and small group numbers, and the 20-member jazz band.

They’ll also enjoy the usual funny costumes.

While some of the small groups dress conservatively, others come to the stage in pajamas, holding giant stuffed bears and ducks. Or they dress as high school punks or athletes. Or musical hillbillys.

“In small groups, we try to have a variety – some comedy, some serious. Our whole goal is just have the best variety we can have,” said Barb Nelson, a veteran chorus member and wife of Director Terry Nelson.

The show consists of four main chorus sets comprised of pop, gospel, ’50s medley and patriotic selections. The jazz band will accompany the large group, and put on its own show half an hour before the choir starts each night. In between the sets, a number of small groups will be featured.

“The chorus puts together five small groups, and other people develop their own small groups,” said singer Allen Erickson.

Erickson will perform in “Varsity Drag,” one of the groups chosen by the chorus, and hopes to sing in a quartet performing “Hallelujah,” that he got together himself.

“I just happened to be surfing YouTube, and I happened to come across this one song of ‘Hallelujah,'” he said. “It has a very unique blend of harmonies. It was probably the best version I’ve heard. So I got the music, and I chose three other guys who can sing real well.”

The group had to audition, he said, and he wasn’t sure yet if they would be included.

“This is not guaranteed to be on our show,” he said. “My guess is it will probably be on.”

Erickson has been in the group 33 years.

“It’s fun, the camaraderie,” he said.

Though there are plenty of regulars in the group, Nelson said the chorus sees new members every year.

“We hang right around 70 to 75 people. We have a lot of people come and go, so it’s kind of miraculous,” she said. “This year we have 11 or 12 people who sang last year who are not singing this year, but we have 10 or 11 new people. It is pretty crazy how it hangs there.”

There are a lot of whole family combinations that sing in the group, she said.

The family connection was what brought first-time member Mary Palmer into the chorus.

“My brother, my sister, my nephew and my sister-in-law are all in it,” Palmer said, “so when I moved back home to Humboldt in January last year, I decided to join up and have fun.”

It was a good decision.

“I love it,” Palmer said.

Not wanting to stretch herself too thin in her first year, Palmer only signed up for one small group – “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” In that song, she gets to wear brightly colored pajamas.

“This is actually kind of a clown thing,” she said of her outfit.

Brandon Erickson, in his second year with the group, gets to dress as a guitar-playing hillbilly for “Mama Don’t Allow.”

Why did he join?

“Family pressure,” he said. “I have a lot of family members in the chorus.”

He’s been enjoying it too.

“The dynamics of the songs are different this year, it seems like,” he said. “There’s a lot more flowing in different parts that are pretty neat. Some of the patriotic and religious songs have a lot of cool dynamics to them, so I like that.”

What is the hardest part?

“The time commitment would be the biggest. If you miss a practice, it seems like you get so far behind,” he said.

Plus, they have to memorize all the music.

“There’s 16 songs in big group you have to memorize, plus if you’re in any small groups, so it’s a lot of music to memorize.”

The religious and patriotic songs are always well-received.

Palmer said, “I would say the religious numbers are my favorite. And then the ‘thank you soldiers’ ranks right up there too.”

“Every year the chorus people and the audience love the gospel and the patriotic sets the best,” said Nelson. “So those are our favorites, I think.”