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Donnybrook choir to perform in Medora

A year after coming together for a Memorial Day service, a choir based in Donnybrook is poised for a much bigger venue.

6/20/17 (Tue)

A year after coming together for a Memorial Day service, a choir based in Donnybrook is poised for a much bigger venue.

The Clarence McCormack American Legion Post 195 Choir, will be performing on the Medora Musical stage July 9 at approximately 7 p.m.

Organizer Mary Johnson said she wasn’t sure there would be interest in having a choir for the annual Memorial Day service in Donnybrook, but she quickly realized that wasn’t the case.

“We’re all coming to Memorial Day services and music always pulls people together,” Johnson said. “If they’re here, we might as well put the talent to work and we have that. We just have to be organized.”

That venue draws a crowd often twice the population of the community but now, a much larger audience in North Dakota will get a chance to hear this remarkable ensemble.

Johnson said her husband Roger taped the 2016 performance, posted it to You Tube and it began getting hits that now total close to 800.

Also last year, the Johnsons, frequent visitors to the Medora Musical, showed the tape to Theodore Roosevelt Foundation President Randy Hatzenbuhler.

“He listened to it and said it makes his hair stand up,” Johnson said. “He asked if we could play for veterans night.”

Johnson soon began texting choir members to ask if they could perform in Medora. She said many said yes, but they couldn’t make the date work last year, and with too many people missing from the choir, it wouldn’t be the same so the 2016 performance was scratched.

But this year, everyone was back for the Memorial Day service and made the commitment to take the Donnybrook singers to the next level.

“We have known Randy for years, but never sought him out. He always recognizes us,” Johnson said. “It kind of surprised me that we got invited. If he didn’t think it was worthy, he wouldn’t have asked us.”

What’s unique about this ensemble is that it has only practiced twice and performed twice, yet sounds as professional as one could imagine.

“The first time we got together, we practiced once the night before,” Johnson said. “It would be nice to practice but we are so spread out.”

In a sense, they may not need to practice, much. Barb Johnson, the piano player, is a music major, Matt Goettle has a master’s degree in music, Craig Goettle teaches music in Bismarck, Alvis Martinson has a minor in music and Justin Johnson works at Jacobsen Music in Minot and sells instruments.

Other choir members include Johnson herself, Nancy and Lawrence Goettle, and Mary Lou Knutson, Melanie Gerard and Madonna Eide, who are sisters, Ginger Johnson, Andrea Topolski, Pete Thorp and Laura Mibeck.

“There’s a lot of music study in the background,” Johnson said. “They know what they’re doing. I knew everyone could sing parts and I knew what they sounded like even before I heard them sing.”

Johnson said she has either sang with everyone in the choir or has chaperoned events with other choir members.

It’s likely the choir will get two practices in before the Medora show, according to Johnson. She said they will practice before going on stage and they will do a sound check in the afternoon before the show.

“We’ve been singing all our lives so everybody has done it so long, we can put it together,” she said. “We’ve played in church, in the school chorus and we played music in high school.”

Johnson said the bottom line is that, at least for her, forming the choir was important for the veterans of Post 195.

“The town of Donnybrook has lost its school, a church and businesses, but the legion is strong and we come back every year,” she said. “It’s a great purpose for what we’re doing.”

These 15 people are obviously on to something. More than 700 hits on the first You Tube video, and for a small town, Johnson considers that a motivator.

Both videos may be found on You Tube. Search “Clarence McCormack Post 195 Choir” and Memorial Day in Donnybrook ND,” and both should pop up on the screen.

Now it’s on to Medora where the choir will perform on Veterans Night.

“It’s unique,” Johnson said, “How many American Legion choirs are there?”

Will the choir continue, will it cut an album, will it perform at even bigger venues?

Johnson said it all depends on how the other members feel about those questions.

“We’ve never thought about an album and maybe that’s something that needs to be put to the choir,” she said. “We’re hoping to continue, but that depends on the choir’s interest.”

She is reasonably sure, however, the choir will continue to assemble for the Memorial Day service.

In the mean time, Johnson, who said she ordered T-shirts for the members a couple of months ago, decided that with North Dakota’s eyes watching they needed to be more professional.

So, she ordered royal blue robes with red stoles and white trim. She said that should make them look professional when they take the stage.

“It takes some work and sometimes you have to listen to the heart,” Johnson said. “And I think we did on this one.”


Who: Clarence McCormack American Legion Post 195 Choir in Donnybrook.

What: Choir performance.

When: July 9 at 7 p.m.

Where: Medora Musical

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