Gackle native starts Jamestown Community Choir
The choir performs "fun" arrangements, says its founder, Tim Metz of rural Gackle, N.D.
JAMESTOWN – Tim Metz loves to sing. He sang with choirs and small groups while living in Florida for 13 years.
But that changed when Metz returned to his native North Dakota, to rural Gackle.
“And I move home and there’s nothin’,” he said.
Metz joined the Jamestown Choralaires, a men’s singing group. And he checked out local churches of various denominations, seeking out choirs.
“I visited all them and they just … they weren’t my style, they weren’t me,” he said.
Metz said he loves a capella music and “fun, cool arrangements,” noting he’s not saying churches sing “boring” music.
“But it has to grip your heart, it has to sound cool, sound good, be exciting …,” he said.
He told friends he wanted to start a choir, and they said they’d join.
“That’s how it started – just me wanting a place to sing and just to see how it goes,” Metz said.
Metz founded the Jamestown Community Choir in August of 2021. The group will end its first season with a performance that’s open to the public at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at Concordia Lutheran Church. Admission is free.
The choir is small, but Metz hopes more singers will join in the fall when rehearsals resume.
“It’s tough because we’re in our first year and we’re still only 20 people,” Metz said. “I would love someday to have a 100-voice choir come out of Jamestown or surrounding area. Someday maybe.”
The Jamestown Community Choir practiced for 90 minutes one day a week at Temple Baptist Church.
“They were gracious enough to let us rehearse there,” Metz said. “We’re not affiliated with Temple even though some of our members go to that church, but they were just gracious enough to be our host.”
When Metz started the group, he contacted local churches to get the word out and he listed it on the Jamestown Events Calendar. Some people saw it listed in The Jamestown Sun.
By the time Christmas rolled around, 13 people were singing in the choir.
“At Christmas time we did a Christmas cantata, so it was all Christmas music,” Metz said. “This season, we’re doing all hymns. So great church hymns but cool, fun arrangements. It’s not just out of a hymnal, I order music. That’s this season. We’ll probably do something again for Christmas and the next season, I’m thinking patriotic, a concert of patriotic music, Americana music.”
He said he wants to do “a lot of different stuff,” not only religious music, to keep it interesting for choir members and audiences.
“That’s my vision, I don’t know if it will go that way or not,” Metz said. “We do meet in a church, we are currently singing church music and we are singing at churches besides the nursing homes, but I want anybody and everyone to come and sing. If they can sing and if they love to sing, I don’t want to exclude people.”
Choir participants range in age from their 30s to 80s, Metz said. High school and college students would also be welcome.
“For sure at least seven churches are represented already so we come all from lots of jobs and careers and backgrounds, and different backgrounds in music,” he said. “There’s people who have degrees in music and some people who like to sing (and do not have a degree).”
Heather Aune, the Jamestown Middle School choir director, is the director of the choir this year.
For Suzanne Bowman of Jamestown, singing in a choir again was something she had been missing. Growing up in Casselton, North Dakota, she said a cantata was performed there twice a year and involved people from all church backgrounds. When she learned a choir was meeting in Jamestown, she realized how much she had missed it.
“First and foremost, I love that there’s an intentionality about it to do religious music, to do gospel music,” she said. “I appreciate that, that that’s the focus of this particular choir.”
She said she appreciates that most of the performances of the choir have been to long-term care facilities in Jamestown.
“There has not been intention to just be seen and heard but really to do ministry with music,” she said. “So I’m thankful for that. And there haven’t been a lot of choral opportunities for women in Jamestown, specifically. I mean, Choralaires is wonderful, but that doesn’t give me as a female much of an opportunity to participate, so I’m grateful for that.”
Bowman enjoys the music arrangements as well.
“He (Metz) has a great ear for music that’s fun to listen to,” she said. “So it’s been really good, and I know we’ve been very well received.”
The choir has performed at Victory Lutheran Church, where Bowman’s husband serves as pastor.
“If we were invited somewhere we would totally love to go there,” Metz said.
Bowman said she thinks the music they are performing isn’t at a hard level for singers who maybe haven’t been in a choir for some time or whose voices aren’t as strong as they were years before.
“There’s a lot of us in our senior set of life, let’s put it that way,” Bowman said. “The fact that it’s not particularly difficult music but there’s enough of a challenge, it’s definitely keeping us sharp, on our toes in terms of musicianship. … we really have to pay attention. It’s not simple either.”
Ellen Quanbeck of Medina, a former music teacher, said she participated in a university choir when she attended college and was looking for a way to "make music" so she decided to join the group in Jamestown.
“I just like making music, music even on a bad day, it’s a good opportunity to just refresh your mind and renew, just renew your energy and your attitude, and so that’s probably one of my favorite parts,” she said.
It’s also a chance to be with other musicians and make friendships, she said. And the different music arrangements have appeal.
“It’s fun because you already know some of the melodies and the hymns but it’s also fresh,” she said. “It’s not something that you’ve maybe heard before so you don’t get bored with it .... Not that you get bored with other stuff, but it just keeps it exciting and it keeps it forward moving rather than becoming stagnant.”
Bowman and Quanbeck encourage others who like to sing to consider joining the choir, noting it’s not a large time commitment.
Metz plans for the choir to resume in August or September. Rehearsals are expected to resume at Temple Baptist Church in the fall on Mondays at 7 p.m.
If you go
What: Jamestown Community Choir performance
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, May 15
Where: Concordia Lutheran Church, 502 1st Ave. N