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EDITORIAL: Thankful for youthful Swiss Choral energy

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OUR OPINION: For a tradition now in its 85th year, the fact that two 26-year-olds and a 31-year-old are at the helm is encouraging. And those teenagers!

There is much to be thankful for this week as people across the country observe one of the loveliest holidays we have — Thanksgiving. Health and happiness, friends and family and home and community are often the go-to answers when the question, “What are you thankful for?” is asked.

But this week there’s something else to be thankful for that needs to be acknowledged: The Swiss Choral Society and the youthful energy behind it. 

Other than traditional holiday celebrations, there is no other annual community event that has sustained itself as long as Swiss Choral. Remarkably, this is the 85th Thanksgiving-week concert in the long history of the chorale and a testament to the value this community places on music. 

What is most remarkable, though, is the fact that it’s not old-timers running the show, but rather three young adults who have found Swiss Choral important enough to give their time and energy to it. The executive committee is made up of Brett Eisenbeis and Patrick Hofer, both 26; and Daniel Graber, 31, who are bringing new and exciting ideas to the table as a way to sustain and energize the event. Let’s face it: not only is this community getting older and losing men and women who have been active in music over the years and decades, but people seem to be busier than ever before.

Participation in the annual Swiss Choral event is just one more thing to commit to. 

To the executive committee’s credit, it has recognized this and has worked hard to respond to it in positive ways. New ideas included a hymn-sing last year and, this year, Freeman’s two high school music departments were invited to join the chorus in “Messiah,” to which both said yes.

Talk about youthful energy!

The 40 young men and women from Freeman Academy and Freeman High School double the size of the choir, which in and of itself is a welcome addition. But the invitation to have them join also exposes some of these teenagers to a choral tradition they have likely never seen — or even taken note of. The chance to sing with experienced vocalists from the community, as well as an orchestra made up of mostly string players from the South Dakota Symphony, is something that very few high school students will ever get the chance to do.

And when they take their spot in the choir loft at the Salem Mennonite Church this Friday night, Nov. 24, their families will most likely be there in support — parents who wouldn’t ordinarily attend the performance. 

Yes, indeed, these are all things to be thankful for. 

The Freeman community is unique in the attention it gives to the fine arts; that starts with grade school children who take part in the Freeman Area Children’s Choir, two schools that place a high value on music and theater, churches that nurture traditional choral music and a Schmeckfest musical that is among the finest community theater available. 

The Swiss Choral Society is certainly a part of the equation. 

That three dedicated young men are taking a lead on sustaining the tradition — and that 40 teenagers will join in singing one of the greatest sacred works of all time — is reason for both celebration and thanksgiving.

We are richer for it.


The Courier editorial reflects the opinion of Jeremy Waltner and Tim L. Waltner.