By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN In what has become a festive holiday tradition in Winsted, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church will host its ninth annual Christmas dinner concert Friday, Dec. 2, to take place at the church at 410 1st St. North.
The Christmas concert following the dinner will feature the North Star Boys Choir under the direction of Francis Stockwell.
Stockwell, who studied music in England, Germany, and Austria, and worked with the Vienna Boys Choir before coming to the US in 1997, is internationally recognized for his ability to bring the celebrated Viennese sound to youth choirs through a special method of voice training he calls “freeing the natural voice.”
He is one of only a handful of voice trainers worldwide who currently practice the technique.
The Viennese sound Stockwell describes as, “a very bright, rich, full, transparent sound that goes straight to the heart.”
Recently, Stockwell and Craig Anderson, who founded the Land of Lakes Choirboys in 1976, started the new North Star choir, which has its roots in the European boys choir tradition, and was founded, in part, to preserve the musical legacy.
Anderson, who was a police officer before starting the Land of Lakes boys choir, has 35 years of experience working with boys in choral musical development, and character building, and has extensive choral program experience.
Together, Stockwell and Anderson brought the Land of Lakes Choirboys to international fame, and their plans are to do the same with the new North Star choir, Stockwell said.
Stockwell said the new choir “is doing extremely well” and he promises they will not disappoint St. John’s audience.
There are two types of choirs, Stockwell said he tells his boys one that entertains and one that touches the soul. The North Star Boys Choir can touch the soul, Stockwell said.
The choir, which performs all of its music from memory, will perform some Austrian Christmas carols sung in German, an Austrian yodeling carol, and some well-known Christmas tunes like “Away in A Manger,” “O Come all Ye Faithful,” which will be sung in Latin and English; and “Silent Night,” sung in German and English.
“I enjoy teaching. It’s very invigorating, and humbling, too. I am able to take a rough product and turn it into a highly-polished product,” Stockwell said of his singers as they slowly take on a rich Viennese quality to their singing voices.
“It’s like uncovering a beautiful oil painting covered in dust with a feather duster. Slowly, the picture starts to emerge,” he said.
Stockwell first heard a sound similar to the North Star Boys Choir at the age of 9, when his mother took him to hear the Vienna Boys Choir in New Zealand, where he grew up.
He was overwhelmed by everything about the choir, their dress, the way they looked, and hearing them speak German.
When they sang, Stockwell said, “I had never heard anything like it. It just went right through me and it touched my soul.”
Over the years, Stockwell and Anderson have won many international awards, and they have plans for more competitions in 2012, when they plan to have the North Star Boys Choir attend the World Choir Games, in which more than 400 choirs from more than 92 countries participate.
The North Star Boys Choir office and practices take place at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Corcoran.
To order St. John’s dinner/concert tickets
Because of limited seating, tickets for St. John’s Christmas dinner and concert must be ordered by Monday, Nov. 21.
The evening includes a social hour at 5 p.m. followed by a dinner at 5:30 p.m.
The menu is pork roulade, chef’s special potatoes, vegetable medley, salad, hard rolls, dessert, and coffee or milk.
The North Star Boys Choir will perform at 7:15 p.m.
Dinner and concert tickets are $30 with a purchase deadline of Monday, Nov. 21.
Concert tickets can be purchased separately for $10 each, and should be purchased ahead of time.
To order tickets, make a check out to St. John’s Dinner Concert, and mail it to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, attention Bonnie Quast, PO Box 815, Winsted, MN 55395.