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RW Singers to put up 'revival tent' at Ames

A dose of that "Old Time Religion" will be dispensed to theatre goers at the Ames Business Center in Ellsworth next month by the Red Wing Madrigal Singers.

The 32-member group plans a gospel-type performance similar to one held last spring in the community where they're based. Several of the singers are from Pierce County, including Harlen Menk and Ed Holdorf, who discussed the upcoming appearance and the group last week.

"We had so much fun, we decided to do it again," Holdorf said, remembering the simple staging and the audience involvement during last spring's event at the Sheldon Theatre.

The approximately hour-and-a-half presentation, including intermission, at the Ames on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. will resemble the earlier one, Menk said. The theme was an old-fashioned tent revival, complete with a "preacher": "The Almost Reverent Jeff Chalmers."

"He added a bit of humor," Menk said, with Holdorf recalling how people in the audience were stirred up by this "fire and brimstone" preacher.

The musical selections voiced by the Madrigals ranged from "Old Time Religion" and "The Old Rugged Cross" to "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Shall We Gather at the River," Menk said. A four-member "Blue Grass Angel Band" added an instrumental touch to the event.

Among the angel band's members was Peter Dulak, Ellsworth High School choir teacher and former Madrigals director who's been a tenor with the group. Menk said other Madrigals familiar with Pierce County have included Perry Clark and Chris Gutting, as well as Duane Schuh and Jim Klaas.

Menk and Holdorf said they're both bass singers. The former joined approximately 10 years ago and the latter has been with the group since 1962, nearly its outset.

"I always loved to sing," Holdorf said, explaining he was recruited while singing at a wedding where Madrigals founder Harold Rygg was accompanist. Rygg assembled choir members from area churches for the then-new group in '61.

The singers perform all kinds of music, such as Bach, formal, Broadway and country, Menk said. They annually present a variety show at the Sheldon and a Christmas show at a Catholic church in Red Wing. They've been on three European tours, singing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on one trip, England and Wales on another, and Prague, Budapest and Vienna on a third.

Five years ago, they burned a CD containing music from those tours, he said. The CDs, made at Minnesota Public Radio's Studio M in the Twin Cities, were mostly sold in Red Wing.

Cheryl Borgen is the director of the singers and Don Fricke is their general manager. Fricke said tickets can be picked up at the door or reserved in advance by calling the Ames Business Center's theatre at 273-6448.