In 1998, Al Gerwing ignited a small spark of encouragement which spurred our small community to take on the enormous task of restoring our massive church to its former glory. Naturally the first concern was money, the large amount of it required and where on earth to get it! Al, a man of great faith, thought it best that we just begin at the beginning. Al thought what better way to promote our cause but to involve as many people as possible through music. Away he went utilizing a terrier-like approach in making numerous phone calls and gathering together a chorus of 40-50 mixed voices from about 12-15 neighbouring communities. Voila – a choir was born. Al Gerwing was the director and Greg Schulte (Al’s nephew and Marysburg native son) our most accomplished accompanist (organ & piano).
Each year Al and Greg would have the music selected by September and we’d begin weekly rehearsals mid-October. Our first Christmas Concert in 1998 was performed to a full house. Everyone was enthralled – both singers and audience. We had not previously experienced the power of that building in giving our sound such a voice! Our final selection of the first concert was The Battle Hymn of the Republic. What a marvellous and powerful finale – with Greg’s fingers flying furiously at the piano knocking his own glasses off as he hit the final chord! We were hooked and had to have more of this!
In the early years our concerts consisted of an afternoon and an evening performance with a huge catered supper (open to the public) between performances. Whew - that was a marathon! Because we are a small community all hands were needed on deck to make this supper happen. So the local ladies (including those who sang in the choir) would prepare salads and desserts at home (drop at the hall kitchen en route to the concert), perform at the afternoon concert, sprint from the concert (at the church) to the supper (at the community hall next door) to help with serving, dishes or cleanup and then sprint back for the evening performance! This pace was not sustainable and after several years, the format was adjusted to include an afternoon concert only with supper following.
Through the love of music, Al was instrumental not only in raising funds and creating awareness of the gem which is our church, but in bringing us closer together and strengthening bonds with our neighbours from surrounding communities as well as former Marysburgers. Throughout the years, our choir has evolved, members have come and gone but the core has remained solid. We’ve had singers ranging in age from 14 to 84 - many of whom have been with us since its inception. How lucky we were to have had such a commitment from two such talented musicians as Al and Greg to lead our choir! (Greg, in spite of extensive work and family commitments, commuted from Saskatoon about 200 miles round trip per rehearsal. He continues to support the choir as special guest accompanist.)
The good fortune continued when Sharon Carter (a SK gal, retired from teaching music in Palm Springs) retired to Middle Lake and joined our choir as a wonderful soprano. Within a year of joining, she took over the task of director after Al’s passing in November 2007. (We’re thinking Al may have had some heavenly influence in that appointment). And, as someone should say, “one good Sharon deserves another”...... Sharon Carter came to this position with a Sharon – that is Sharon Gerspacher as another most gifted and tireless accompanist!
We are so grateful to all our singers for their commitment, their energy and their voices, and feel so blessed to be part of the Marysburg Regional Choir and the magical tradition created with song.