Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Jan. 20, 2012

From chilled to toasty

The day was bright and sunny when I drove to my dental appointment last Wednesday morning. By the time I left an hour later, the sky had darkened to a deep gray, the wind was howling and it looked like it could snow.

I went to my campus office and cranked up the heat to take the chill off.

When I left at the end of the day, the wind was biting cold and I could feel icy pellets against my face. I walked to my car slowly because the sidewalks felt slick.

The Riley County High School winter band and choir concert, originally scheduled for Dec. 19, had been postponed because of snow and was re-scheduled to that very night.

"Not very good timing," I thought.

Perhaps it would be postponed again because of slick roads.

I drove to Mom's home on the west side of town and then asked husband Art to pick me up when it was time to go. Since he's from Wisconsin, he has little trouble negotiating snow and ice.

Youngest daughter Katie was with him when he arrived. We drove to the church without any problems, although we heard later that some people slid off the road just west of town. Luckily, no one was hurt.

Art dropped Katie and me at the church entrance. I felt immediately enveloped by the warmth - not just physical, but also the warmth of seeing so many familiar faces. Everyone seemed to be eager to hear the music, although the holidays already seemed long ago.

About 7:15, violinist Liz Poppe began warming up the crowd with several numbers.

The final musical prelude was "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" sung by four RCHS alumni. Although Katie was the last of the quartet to graduate, all four had agreed that it would be fun to get their Renaissance Quartet together to sing at the concert. She, Eric Zeak and Sarah Wirtz now attend Kansas State University and Trevor Geisler attends Butler County Community College and all are still involved in music. The last time they sang together was at the state competitions when they took home a top rating. The judge wondered if they sang for events as he was surprised how well their voices blended.

The joy of hearing their lovely voices and the beauty of the song itself brought tears to my eyes. When they had finished, the audience let the quartet know that despite being apart for nearly two years, they still had it.

Then the program began. A nice combination of band numbers and tunes sung by the various choral groups was interspersed with a sing-along that included the audience. We all stood to sing "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Silent Night" and enjoyed the young people singing old favorites such as "Go Tell It On the Mountain" and "I Saw Three Ships."

Numbers I hadn't heard before included "Requiem," a haunting tune about the 2006 Southeast Asian tsunami, and "Betelehemu," a joyful Nigerian Christmas carol. The contrast between the two was striking. In the first, the voices were so soft, you could almost feel the calm after the deadly storm. In the second, you could hear the calls of the raucous rainforest animals.

The final carol, "O Holy Night," was the icing on the cake. RCHS Choral Director Janie Brokenicky asked all choir alumni to come forward to join in. It was immediately after a similar performance in Leonardville on another slippery night three years earlier that now-husband Cole proposed to her in front of those assembled.

With choir members both old and new in place, the music began. Janie's strong, clear, beautiful voice, complemented by her students' voices, filled the church and our hearts.

After, there were refreshments of cider and cookies and time to chat.

We may have arrived feeling chilled, but by the time we left, everyone felt quite toasty, thanks to a night of beautiful music.

Alto Katie, left, soprano Sarah Wirtz, Director and vocalist Janie Brokenicky, tenor Trevor Geistler and bass Eric Zeak.

1. A special thanks to Lea Westervelt for the loan of her camera.
2.The video is shaky, but Art said it was the music that was important: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", "O Holy Night".

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