Back on stage for No. 43

MANSON – A musical tradition of 43 years is about to take the stage in Manson once again.

The Manson Meridian Singers will present their 43rd annual concert, “Celebrate the Music of Life,” Saturday and Sunday in the Kate Toben Auditorium at the Manson Northwest Webster High School.

This year’s performance will feature several familiar numbers performed by the entire 29-member mixed choir, along with small groups and a wide variety of musical selections from popular country western music to Broadway, a Beatles medley and a salute to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Jerrold Jimmerson, in his 28th year of directing the ensemble, said the prospect of having a 43rd annual show was uncertain just a few months ago due to a lack of male singers.

But, local talent pulled through, and the show was once again able to go on.

“Honestly it looked bleak there for a little while,” said Jimmerson. “We only had three men, and I didn’t think we could do it without at least 10.”

Jimmerson said he prefers to have a minimum of 24 singers to make for a well-blended group. When nine men came through, Jimmerson decide to go on with the show. Much to his surprise more male singers joined following the September auditions.

“After auditions we had two more ask about participating, and then on the night of our first rehearsal two more who had never been here showed up to sing,” Jimmerson said.

The need for singers also brought back members who have been part of the group in the past, as well as new singers.

“They really step up when you need them,” said Jimmerson.

Josh Waller, a Manson native who returned to his hometown is one of the group’s youngest members and is singing with the Meridians for the first time.

“Singing is just something I have always done,” said Waller. “I moved back to town and got involved. This group is one I have been familiar with for a lot of years.”

Waller also stepped up to perform in small groups and is enjoying his first musical appearance since his college days.

“It’s been six years; I’d hadn’t really sung since I was in college,” he said. “It’s just great to finally be singing again.”

Vara Groot is the only original charter member performing with the Meridians this year. Groot sang in the first concert 43 years ago, but a busy schedule kept her away from singing for several years before returning to the group about four years ago.

But, she didn’t stay away completely during that time.

“My husband sang for many years,” she said. “I used to critique the dress rehearsals.”

Over the years, she said, some things have changed, but many things also remain the same.

“The combo, that really adds something,” said Groot. “The music is always wonderful, but they are like the icing on the cake. And the music this year is fun, probably the best of any year. It’s a good combination of classics, and a little bit of crazy.”

B.J. Ukena, the group’s president, has been a member of the singers for 18 years. He said he is impressed with the skills and talent of the entire choir.

“They are a highly skilled and dedicated bunch,” he said. “They come together like a family. The town of Manson should be awfully proud to have a group of this quality around for more than 40 years.”

A special feature between large group numbers are the small groups and soloists. Wayne Dohrmann, who returned to the group after taking some time off, will be performing “Old Glory,” an original tune he wrote himself.

“I’ve been writing my own songs for a while,” said Dohrmann. “My son is a songwriter and Nashville singer and he got me started.”

Pam George has been involved with the Manson Meridian Singers for about nine years. She is joined by her husband Dave, a 23-year member, and son Matt Weishaar, who is singing for the first time.

Was there a little family pressure for Weishaar to be involved?

“Maybe, just a little bit,” he said.

“We need the young members,” Pam George said. “I just love hearing him sing again.”