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West Central Singers return to stage with seasonal concert

After a two-year hiatus, the West Central Singers are back with "In Winter's Time," a concert full of songs of the season. The choir will be performing in New London and in Willmar on Dec. 10 and 11.

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West Central Singers director Naomi Powers-Baker directs the choir during a rehearsal Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Willmar Community Center in preparation for their upcoming Christmas concerts.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — It has been more than two years since the West Central Singers have graced any stage for a performance. Shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn't until the last few months that the group felt comfortable enough to gather and sing together once again.

"We didn't want to risk it," said director Naomi Powers-Baker, adding the choir has many members who would be considered high-risk for a dangerous case of COVID-19. "We decided to play it extra safe."

Now, after polling past choir members and finding most wanted to restart the group, West Central Singers will be presenting its first concerts since the pandemic started. The group, made up of about 32 members of all ages from across the Willmar lakes area, will be presenting "In Winter's Time: Songs of the Season and Sing-a-longs."

The first show will be at 7 p.m. Dec 10 at Peace Lutheran Church in New London, with a second performance scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 11 at Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10 per adults. Children under the age of 18 are free.

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Jackie Cunningham, center, and fellow members of the West Central Singers rehearse at the Willmar Community Center on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, for upcoming Christmas performances.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"People are just wanting to get back together," Powers-Baker said. "It is extra special now."

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Audiences will be treated to a variety of music, including some old holiday favorites and a few tunes to sing along to.

"We've got some fun music, funny music, music that tugs at the heartstrings," Powers-Baker said.

The West Central Singers were founded in January 2001 by its first director, Rolf Anderson. Other directors over its 21-year history have been Chet Sommers, John Jahr and Powers-Baker. The mixed group welcomes singers of all ages and talents with the mission to bring choral music to both the singers in the choir and the public.

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West Central Singers director Naomi Powers-Baker assists the choir in warming up their voices prior to a rehearsal at the Willmar Community Center on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"Fine arts are so important," Powers-Baker said. "We have a lot of talent in this area."

The members of the choir, both old and new, are excited to be back at performing. The silver lining of the forced break caused by the pandemic was it showed people just how important human interaction and in-person activities and events are to the mental health of the community. Choir members began rehearsals for their upcoming concerts back in August and were thrilled to do so, according to Powers-Baker.

"They were a little bit giddy," Powers-Baker said. "A lot of excitement and a lot of passion to get back together and sing."

The choir invites and welcomes everyone to attend the winter concerts and experience that passion the music themselves.

"I am very excited about the variety of music we are doing," Powers-Baker said. "Little something (for) everybody."

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Vocalists with the West Central Singers choir practice holiday songs for upcoming Christmas performances at the Willmar Community Center on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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