42ND EASTER CANTATA IN MENNO ON SUNDAY
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
The Menno community has its fair share of annual traditions.
Every Fourth of July the downtown corridor is jam-packed with visitors from near and far for the Independence Day parade. The Menno City Cemetery is the perfect location each May for the reverent and reflective Memorial Day observance. September is the month for the show of power at Pioneer Acres, as several thousand visit the family-friendly living museum that is the Power Show. Octoberfest is always a delicious way to celebrate the German heritage that has helped shape the Menno community since the 1870s.
And for some, when the Easter season rolls around, singing in the Menno-Olivet Cantata is just something you do. The current work, “Lest We Forget,” which is created and arranged by Michael E. Parks, is once again under the direction of Martin Sieverding with piano accompaniment by Mary Schoenfish.
It will be presented this Sunday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at the Salem Reformed Church located on South Fifth Street in Menno.
“It is important for us to remember the momentous and moving events that occurred during the last Passover week of the Lord’s earthly ministry,” Cantata orgainzers said in a press release. “Events that began in triumph and ended, seemingly in tragedy. Centered around the timeless Easter hymn ‘Lead Me to Calvary,’ Michael Parks has created an eloquent framework for us to focus our attention once again on the passion of our Savior.
“No other story in human history is as important as the story of the cross, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ — may we never forget.”
A free-will offering will be taken to defray the expenses and other ongoing Menno-Olivet Ministerial Association projects.
The religious performance in conjunction with the resurrection season has involved many voices in its 43-year history.
“Members come and go for various reasons: moving, age, death, health (can’t stand that long or voice changes), vacation plans, disinterest, family conflicts, can’t read music,” says longtime Menno resident Judy Headley, who is singing in this year’s choir. “Some members have been with the group for many of the performances.”
The tradition of the Cantata began in 1980 with the late LaVerna Mueller serving as director and Jennifer Herrboldt as the accompanist. There were 57 singers that year.
In the decades that have followed, the Cantata was skipped twice — in 1981 and then again in 2020, when concerns about Covid-19 were running strong. The choir has ranged in size from 57 that first year to as small as 21, with this year’s group of 37 somewhere in the middle.
There have been at least 15 different directors, but none with more repeat apperances that Sieverding, a staff member at Menno Public School who is leading the choir for the 10th time.
More than 15 different cantatas have been performed, with some of them repeated as many as three times.
Headley notes that the religious collection focuses on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Over the years music has been presented by the choir and small groups, with duets and solos interspersed with narration. There has been piano accompaniment and occasional flute, percussion and brass, with a prerecorded orchestra accompanying the choir one year.
This choir is open to adults and high school students.
Rehearsals for “Lest We Forget” — the third time the work has been presented — have been held weekly since the first part of March and have alternated between the Salem Reformed and Grace Lutheran churches.
The public is cordially invited to attend and celebrate this sacred experience.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Much of this information was provided by Judy Headley.