St. Charles Singers ‘Choral Connections’ concerts to feature local high school students

The St. Charles Singers have filled the Baker United Methodist Church and other venues with wonderful music for nearly four decades. Over that time, it has taken significant planning and brainpower to develop ideas to showcase the voices of 30 or more singers.

Yet, St. Charles Singers founder and music director Jeff Hunt claims, with a hearty laugh, that it took him 40 years to develop a “great idea” for the choral group’s community interaction.

It’s a goal of the St. Charles Singers to have a community interaction program in place, and it has resulted in two “Choral Connections” concerts at the end of the month featuring six area high school choirs and the Singers.

“I’m really excited about these concerts because they are really pushing the envelope on this idea of connections,” Hunt said. “As an organization, we are really hoping to reach all parts of the community with new audiences and high school students.”

The idea falls into place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles.

For the Feb. 23 concert, Kaneland, Glenbard North, and Geneva high school choirs will perform, while Woodstock, St. Charles East, and Sycamore choirs will sing on Feb. 24.

Each high school choir will perform two songs, the St. Charles Singers will perform four pieces, then the entire ensemble of high school choirs and the Singers will sing together for two pieces.

Bryan Kunstman of Kaneland High School conducts students during a “Sing” summer workshop with the St. Charles Singers. The Singers will team up with students in February in a pair of “Choral Connections” concerts at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles. Courtesy of St. Charles Singers

The choir directors of the six high schools were quick to say yes when Hunt pitched the idea. Those directors are Bryan Kunstman of Kaneland, Monica Bertrand of St. Charles East, Laura Johnson of Glenbard North, Jessica Palmissano of Geneva, Brian Jozwiak of Woodstock, and Drayton Eggleson of Sycamore.

They will each conduct their own choir’s pieces, while Hunt will conduct the Singers’ pieces and the finishing collaboration between them and the three high school choirs each night.

“We will make a big sound,” Hunt said, referring to the power of having 30 singers from each high school and the Singers together at one time. “We will have more than 100 singers up front (at the church) for the large choir piece.”

Baker Church holds about 320 people, and Hunt expects big crowds with friends and family of the high school singers attending. Tickets at $20 are available to the public on the website.

Anyone in attendance would be treated to some wonderful music and learn more about the high school students who will make brief statements about the importance of high school choirs. But another factor comes into play in Hunt’s mind.

“The other thing we want to do is show the high school kids that they are the future of the St. Charles Singers,” he said. “We want the message of this to be that singing can be a lifelong journey. You may stop playing basketball or other sports when you are out of high school or college, but you don’t have to stop singing.”

Hunt said the idea became a reality partly because the St. Charles Singers “have a lot of music educators and choir directors among us, as well as elementary music educators.”

“It is a concert,” he noted. “But it also is more of a way to celebrate the music and each other.”

More time for sculptures

For several years, I have pointed out my favorite sculpture at the St. Charles Park District’s Sculpture in the Park exhibit each summer at Mount St. Mary Park.

I interviewed the sculptor to get an idea of the vision behind the art, hoping my readers would find it interesting.

Now we’ll have a little more time to see the sculptures.

The park district revealed last week that the exhibit, which features nearly 20 sculptures throughout the park, will have sculptures on display throughout the year. Previously, those walking through the park could look at the newest sculptures from about May through October.

This is good news for my family. We walk through Mount St. Mary often during the winter, even when some of the trail is not completely clear of snow and ice.

Having the sculptures displayed throughout the year will get more sets of eyes on them because some people prefer walking or running in colder weather.

Got the places mixed up

When writing about the Batavia Park District’s future community center on Houston Street, I speculated that the new center could help the park district free up space in its current building for exercise classes.

The problem is, I gave the address of the Shannon Hall building at 14 Van Buren St., probably because I went there for yoga classes for years.

I meant the main park district building at 327 W. Wilson St., where numerous fitness classes, kids’ gymnastics and basketball are played.

My wife taught fitness classes there for 20 years, so you’d think I would remember the address.

Bakery on the move

After writing about Gather Bakery opening a pop-up spot in the Geneva Commons during the holiday season to go along with their spot at the Batavia Boardwalk Shops, we now see owners Deanna and Eric Keilty also have established a location at the Bake-Lather-Engrave store at 10 E. Wilson St. in Batavia.

Gather Bakery joins Simply Kirious Soaps and Signed by Crystal in that location, which held a soft opening just before Christmas.

His Luther North roots

It was hard enough to learn of the passing of the Rev. Bill Beckmann of Immanuel Lutheran in Batavia two weeks ago, but it also left me with some unfinished business.

He’ll never know I was trying to help him possibly hook up with some folks who knew him from his days as a Luther North High School teacher.

As noted last week, Beckmann has probably been mentioned more in this column than anyone because of his annual history presentations about Christmas traditions at Tri-Cities Exchange Club meetings.

A week or so before his passing, during a trip to see relatives in Alabama, a reader asked me if the Bill Beckmann she was reading about in my column last December could be the same one she knew as a teacher at Luther North in the 1960s.

Bill had never mentioned Luther North to me, but I told the reader I would pass along her question and let her know what he said.

Bill likely did not see that email or didn’t have a chance to respond before his sudden health problems during his trip.

He would have been surprised, and likely quite pleased, to chat with someone who was a student at the school in those days.

Playing through the snow:

After a recent snow, I ran across a couple of disc golfers at Wheeler Park in Geneva. Yes, these folks play in the snow if it’s not knee-deep.

One player had a white disc, so I asked how he kept track of it in the snow.

His answer: “Pray.”

A casual dining favorite

I always appreciate readers letting me know I may have overlooked something, especially when mentioning restaurants in the Tri-Cities area.

When describing how the area of West Main Street in St. Charles has become somewhat of a mecca for quick-serve or casual restaurant options, I missed a favorite of some.

A reader pointed out she is a regular customer of Pomodoro y Mozzarella, which she called the best casual dining restaurant in the area. It’s located in the retail strip I mentioned when pointing out that the Throwback Sports Bar had closed.

Just way too young

St. Peter Parish in Geneva was reeling after the shocking news last week that its 39-year-old pastor, Father Jon Bakkelund, had passed away — not more than a couple of weeks after he informed the parish that he was going to be away while addressing serious health problems related to alcoholism.

Many parishioners made deep connections with Father Bakkelund. Still, other than seeing him walk in the Geneva Swedish Days parade, I only saw him out of the church at a Cubs-Brewers baseball game on a Tuesday night in Milwaukee in 2016. I spotted him walking along the stadium concourse.

I told him later that I saw him there. He remembered the Cubs had lost that game, but it dawned on me that maybe he was a Brewers fan. After all, he went to college at Marquette and spent a lot of time in Wisconsin.

Maybe it was good my pastor was at that game. Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs hit a foul line drive that shot right over the top of my head and slammed into an empty seat behind me in our section just behind first base.

It was the era before safety nets protecting fans. If it had hit me at what seemed like a speed of a zillion miles per hour, it would have been lights out, and Father would be praying for me.

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