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Charles City Singers to present some musical ‘Americana’ April 28

  • Members of the Charles City Singers rehearse a song for their upcoming concert at the high school vocal music room recently. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Director Scott Blankenbaker leads members of the Charles City Singers through vocal warmups at the high school vocal music room recently. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Director Scott Blankenbaker leads a rehearsal while members of the Charles City Singers can be seen in the mirror behind him as they prepare for their upcoming concert at the high school vocal music room recently. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Director Scott Blankenbaker leads a rehearsal while members of the Charles City Singers can be seen in the mirror behind him as they prepare for their upcoming concert at the high school vocal music room recently. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Director Scott Blankenbaker leads members of the Charles City Singers through vocal warmups at the high school vocal music room recently. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

The Charles City Singers are kicking off their 44th year with a choral sampling of traditional American music.

“My idea for ‘Americana’ was not just a patriotic concert — plenty of people do those — I just wanted to capture little bits and pieces of what America means, at least to me, through choral music,” said Scott Blankenbaker, now in his third year of directing the local community vocal music group.

The concert, entitled “Americana: a Spring Concert,” will be presented at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 28, at Trinity Methodist Church in Charles City.

“We’ve got some early Colonial stuff all the way up to African-American spirituals,” said Blankenbaker, who noted that the show will include a setting of several poems by Robert Frost, who “probably, in the modern day, is considered America’s poet.”

The set list features some early 20th-century jazz, a piece from Broadway’s “West Side Story,” and a big medley of George Gershwin songs.

The choral numbers will also include a little patriotic music, plus a montage that includes some folksy, well-known 20th century songs that the audience can sing along with — and Blankenbaker said lyrics will be provided for audience members.

“I think they’ll hear a lot of different styles. They’ll get a chance to do some singing with us, and just a variety of stuff,” he said.

The community vocal music group performs two shows each year, one before Christmas and one in the spring. Blakenbaker said there currently are about three dozen members of the Charles City Singers, and he compared Charles City to other communities that are much larger, yet struggle to keep community music groups like the Singers going.

“I think it’s terrific, the commitment we have here in Charles City to choral music,” he said. “I’m not sure what’s kept the Charles City Singers alive. I think maybe it’s just their passion for music, the directors they’ve had in the past who have shared that passion.”

Blankenbaker, starting his third season as director, lives in Charles City and works in Austin as a music instructor at Riverland Community College in Albert Lea, where he is head of the music department, teaches two performing groups and teaches voice lessons and music theory and “whatever else is needed.”

He moved to Charles City 10 years ago and saw that there was a community choir, but with his schedule, he said, he couldn’t commit to singing in it at that time.

“I attended almost every concert, and then when the position came open, I was encouraged to apply for it,” Blankenbaker said. “I think I was an unknown quantity at that time. Only a couple people in the group knew who I was, but I think so far it’s going well.”

He said that the members of the Charles City Singers are open to new ideas and novel approaches to performing vocal music.

“I enjoy the group a lot. We’re doing some different things. I’m not one for doing the same thing every single concert,” he said. “We like to mix it up and try something different now and then.”

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