Beautiful music will resound in Hoven’s St. Anthony of Padua “Cathedral on the Prairie” on
Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m. Two large choirs, two accomplished soloists, an engaging narrator,
and a 24-piece orchestra will be featured at a grand pre-Christmas concert with the theme
“Love’s Pure Light.”
A 56-member All-Faiths Regional Festival Choir, directed by Michael Coyne and
rehearsals accompanied by Rhonda Strouckel, and Northern State University’s 39-member
Chamber Singers, directed by Dr. Timothy Woods, are again honored to perform with Conductor
Thomas Fortner and the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra (SDSO).
“Surely the presence of the Lord was in this place, “exclaimed a past concert attendee. One past concert goer wrote, “Wow! What a wonderful way to begin Advent!”
Dr. Timothy Woods, who was the concert guest soloist in 2015, brings Aberdeen’s NSU
Chamber Singers for their 10th year. He considers his Hoven performances among career
highlights. Thomas Fortner, SDSO’s assistant conductor since 2017, comes to Hoven for his
second time conducting at the Christmas on the Prairie Concert.
“Beautiful church, polite ushers, lovely setting, and great sounds of music from both of
the choirs and the symphony!” another past concert-goer wrote, adding, “We enjoyed the
afternoon in Hoven. Keep up the good work.”
Featured concert soloists are baritone John Moore and soprano Michelle Monroe. John Moore garners praise in the United States and Europe for his energetic performances for both operas and concerts. A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Program, Moore’s reviews relate how he comfortably commands the stage with his “muscular-based beautiful booming baritone.”
Michelle Monroe, teacher and versatile performer, appears frequently as a
soloist with regional orchestras. Monroe received special praise for her performances of Jeremy
Beck’s monodrama Black Water and Jake Heggie’s cycle Eve-Song. Critics wrote of her voice,
“Just glorious... its range, nuance, and beauty – [her] command of dramatic shape and musical
details... all just marvelous... she was truly engaging.”
Narrator Tom Roberts and his wife live in Sioux Falls, is originally from the Ipswich/Aberdeen area. Their lengthy affiliation with the Children’s Home Society of South Dakota (CHS) led to a CHS fundraising children’s book, ‘Twas the Night Before Christ.” The couple continues to be deeply involved with CHS, and Roberts continues to donate proceeds from his books to CHS. For over 28 years, Roberts performed and taught theater throughout the Midwest and overseas.
Traditionally, as the concert nears its end, the audience is invited to join the SDSO, both
choirs, soloists, and St. Anthony’s Choir Accompanist, Alice Simon, on the church’s 17-rank,
1,127-pipe organ to sing Silent Night and Joy to the World.
The combined choirs and soloists join the SDSO for the grand finale, the time-honored “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah.
Concert coordinators in Hoven are Noreen Glodt and Colleen Simon. Although Simon
has always sung in the All-Faiths Festival Chorus, this is the first year she has helped with
concert preparation in the church office. “As a chorus member, it always seemed like the
concert details magically came together,” Simon said, adding, “Now, I know it isn’t
magic! So many people are busy helping behind the scenes. I have really enjoyed seeing the
concert from this side of things.”
Following the two-hour concert, patron ticket holders will fill Hoven’s American Legion
Hall, decorated by Lynda Wagner, for a meal that includes beef bourguignon, candied honey-buttered baby carrots, fresh-baked artisan breads, and an assorted array of desserts.
Many volunteers in the Hoven area are enthusiastically preparing to host St. Anthony’s 15th annual pre-Christmas concert and gala reception. Larger cities may have concert halls, but because of the marvelous acoustics in St. Anthony’s “Cathedral on the Prairie” and the generous volunteer spirit of local people, every first Sunday in December, Hoven, population 400+, welcomes its guests, causing the population to briefly swell to over 1,000.
“One has to see the church to truly appreciate the work of the ancestors who built it, and the dedication of the present-day parish that maintains it,” wrote an attendee of last year’s concert.
Tickets are available by calling St. Anthony’s Rectory at 605-948-2451, Ext. 5, during normal business hours. The doors open about 2:40 for the 3:00 concert.
The Northern State University Chamber Singers make use of St. Anthony’s large choir
loft for special musical effect.
St. Anthony’s first five pre-Christmas concerts, those featuring the South Dakota
Symphony Orchestra from 2003 to 2007, were modeled after similar concerts at the
Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Sioux Falls. Including this year’s concert, 10 more independent concerts have been held annually from 2009 to 2018. There was no concert in 2008 due to the installation of geothermal heating and cooling at St. Anthony’s. If there had been a concert scheduled the first Sunday of 2008, it likely would have been cancelled due to blizzard conditions that day.
Cookies and bars come flooding in for each of St. Anthony’s Christmas on the Prairie
Concert. At least 500 treats are needed. Add to that at least another couple 100 the day of the concert for the musicians who meet in the church basement before the concert and during intermission.
St. Anthony’s junior and senior religious education students are annually recruited for a
variety of lifting and moving chores. Grades 3-12 all help with concert preparation.
Concerts have always featured a regional All-Faiths Festival Choir, with many of the
vocalists traveling long distances, including several who travel 80 miles from Pierre and
Aberdeen, for many of the eight rehearsals. Many Festival Choir members have
impressive musical credentials on their resumes.
All-Faiths Festival Choir Accompanist, Rhonda Strouckel, supplies each member with
an accompaniment CD that contains his/her specific part, which sometimes adds up to
eight different accompaniments: the 1st and 2nd parts for bass, tenor, alto, and soprano.
A week before the concert, the SDSO conductor travels to Hoven and Aberdeen to
rehearse with Mike Coyne and the Festival Choir, and Dr. Woods and the NSU Chamber
St. Anthony’s Church basement was completed in 1910 and used for worship until the
first Mass in the upper edifice was celebrated on Holy Thursday in 1921. Thirty-one intricately-detailed stained-glass windows and hundreds of stenciled designs decorate the church’s interior. Though Christmas is weeks away, some of St. Anthony’s Christmas decor is in place for the concert. St. Anthony’s twin towers reach 140 feet to the heavens. The church’s footprint is 161 feet long and 64 feet wide. Parish volunteers, working for five years, accomplished a major interior restoration in the early 1980s. A new half-million dollar roof and geothermal heating and cooling soon followed.