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Calling all Meridians

Future of Manson’s singing group uncertain with too few singers

September 5, 2012
By JOE SUTTER ( , Messenger News

MANSON - The Manson Meridian Singers may cancel their 42nd annual show this year if more people don't volunteer to sing, said Director Jerrold Jimmerson.

The group typically consists of around 30 singers and puts on a big production, complete with costume changes, which Jimmerson said is rare for a small community.

So far, only 11 women and five men from previous years have confirmed they will return, leaving the group unbalanced. Jimmerson said he needs at least 10 men to form a group.

"We have five sopranos and six altos, with the potential for four or five more," Jimmerson said. But "only two tenors and three basses are coming back, and only one is signed up for auditions.

"I have some leads, and I talked to some people, but until we finish (auditions) on Thursday night, I'm not sure if we'll have a group."

As he spoke, Jimmerson received an email saying another man would be returning, for a confirmed total of six men, and a group of 17.

"This is what I've been dealing with in the last week or so," he said.

The group began when Manson members of the Fort Dodge Civic Glee Club decided there was an abundance of talent in Manson, and they should form their own group.

The Glee Club no longer exists, and Jimmerson said the Humboldt Community Chorus was the only other group in the area that does a show comparable to the Meridians.

"It's unique for a small town," he said. "Through the years, it has been something Manson can always point to with pride, that this is something we're able to do here in a small community. That is the comment we hear from people who come to the shows, 'I can't believe you can put on a show like this in such a small town.'"

Lori Erkenbrack, of Rockwell City, has been with the group 11 years and has been the pianist for five of those. She said the group has trouble attracting volunteers like any other group.

"People don't want to make commitments to church, to anything. It's time-consuming," said Erkenbrack. "It's hard with younger people, if they have kids. Our baby was only 3 when I started. You kind of make it work."

She said she really enjoys having the group, but she understands that it can't go on with too few people.

"The Manson Meridian singers have set the bar pretty high, and if we can't come up with a group that can raise that, maybe it wouldn't hurt to step back this year and re-evaluate, maybe look at some different options on revising the program or bringing in some new things in a year or two."

Jimmerson remembered times when it looked like the group wouldn't be able to continue, including after the previous director, Byron Henn, left the position.

"I thought, this is too good a thing for the Manson community not to have. I agreed to do for a year or two."

That year became 10 years, and then 15, with no one else volunteering for the position. Jim Kistenmacher took over the group for five years, but when he left Jimmerson picked it up again to ensure the show would go on.

Now, Jimmerson said more of the veteran singers are getting older, and some have health issues.

"It really becomes an issue where we need younger to middle-aged people to step up and replace the veterans," he said. "If you don't have people get involved, sooner or later the group won't exist."

Jimmerson really doesn't know what will happen. If he can't get at least 20 singers, "One option we have to look at is to take a year off and recruit like crazy."

However things turn out, Jimmerson will have to make a decision by Friday.

"Obviously I don't want to buy music for a show not gong to happen," he said. "I need to make a decision by Friday if we're having a show or not, because Friday I have to mail this sample music back."



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