Holiday concert combines poetry, song

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— Soprano singer Bobbi Keller said she finds it funny that being a ski instructor pays the bills even though singing is what she studied in college years ago.

"I'm going on my 10th year," Keller said as a member of the Columbine Chorale.

Keller moved to Steamboat in 1974 and sang in "The Messiah" when she arrived.

Keller and other sopranos, altos and baritones sat in the rear of the United Methodist Church Tuesday night lightly singing and admiring their favorite songs.

Just minutes later, the 33 chorale members took their first test in director Christel Houston's Columbine Chorale class through Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus.

"This is for your final grade. I bet you didn't think you'd have a test in this class," Houston said to the crowd whose test required them to choose their five favorite songs.

The Columbine Chorale is a noncredit and one-time credit class through the Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs that performs a holiday concert in December and a spring concert in April.

Tuesday marks the performance of the holiday concert "Our Town in December" at 7 p.m. at the Steamboat Springs High School Theater.

Soprano singer Sherry Sullivan said the spring concert featured a special segment with the youth chorale; however, the youths will sing two to three songs in the holiday concert because they are presenting their own concert.

The Columbine Youth Chorale's free holiday concert is at 7 p.m. today at the United Methodist Church on Eighth and Oak streets.

The Columbine Chorale is seeing a change in the gender numbers. Beth Soderquist, Houston's right-hand woman, said the chorale has 10 men this year. Last year the chorale had about four.

"I can read music and weave it in and out but to organize where people are standing " Houston said as she waved her hand over her head.

The men and women gathered at the front of the church following their standing chart that dispersed the various parts throughout the group.

Houston, who has directed the chorale for five years, chooses the songs for each concert and said she decided on "Our Town in December" as the perfect representative of Steamboat.

Sullivan said "Our Town in December" is the signature song because it describes Steamboat at Christmastime.

"Some people have candles in their windows, some have nothing, some people ski and others light the Menorah," Houston said.

Houston has interspersed American holiday songs with British favorites and a literary lesson for chorale members and the audience.

"In Winter" by Emily Dickinson will be read and sung along with "The Bells" by Edgar Allan Poe and "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost.

"We kind of have a literary corner," Houston said of three members of the choir that will read each poem and then sing each song.

Houston admired Dickinson's way of painting such a beautiful picture of winter in "In Winter" and how closely it matches Steamboat.

"Don't you see the picture she's painting they're perfect," said Houston, thinking of the ranchlands and farmers.

Dan Isbell, Matt Murphy, Larry Lucas and Jonathan Krauss will assemble as the brass choir accompanying the chorale this year with Brian Houston on piano.

"We've got three husband and wife couples this year oh, no, four including Christel and Brian," Soderquist said.

Houston said the brass choir adds bass and baritone to a mostly soprano chorale while also adding a rich tone quality.

But the chorale will end with a sentimental piece they rehearsed on the night of Sept. 11 "Grown Up Christmas List."

Houston said she actually chose the song in August for the concert but it seemed that much more relevant after the terrorist attacks.

"The chorus has something about 'no more lives torn apart.' It's amazing how the piece is so timely," Houston said. "Everyone had tears in their eyes that night."

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