Mitchell residents part of choir set to sing at Christian vocal artist’s concertA group of 12 Mitchell residents will be part of a 100-member choir that will sing on stage with Christian vocal artist Michael W. Smith Nov. 5 in Sioux Falls. The concert is part of the “New Hallelujah World Tour.” Matt Maher, Phil Stacey and Meredith Andrews also will perform.
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
A group of 12 Mitchell residents will be part of a 100-member choir that will sing on stage with Christian vocal artist Michael W. Smith Nov. 5 in Sioux Falls.
The concert is part of the “New Hallelujah World Tour.” Matt Maher, Phil Stacey and Meredith Andrews also will perform.
Smith’s “New Hallelujah” tour is traveling to only 20 cities in the United States. He has recorded more than 30 No. 1 hits and won three Grammy Awards and 44 Dove Awards. He has sold more than 11 million albums throughout his 25-year career and was recently inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
As part of his show, Smith requests an accompanying choir, generally made up of local vocalists. Mitchell residents expected to take part in the choir are Cheri Hamilton, Bill Hamilton, Laurriee Bentson, Craig Youngstrom, Mark King, Steve Laufman, Dick Goldammer, Stan Peterson, Mike Baker, Kevin Kenkel, Doug Burns and David Astrup.
Tim Mikkels, of Gunn Productions in Sioux Falls, said he and his staff fielded more than 500 phone calls and 1,000 e-mails from prospective choir members. The final 100 were selected on a first-come, first-served basis. Other factors, such as age, determined the final 100, too. Participants must be older than 15.
The majority of the choir consists of South Dakota residents, but there are some from Oklahoma and another from Texas, Mikkels said.
The choir will sing 12 songs with Smith. The selected songs will not be announced in advance, but Mikkels said the selections are wellknown praise and worship songs. The choir will practice as a whole today and then a few hours before the concert. Sioux Falls resident and musician Stuart Norberg was selected as choir director.
Incorporating a choir into Smith’s show is a new concept for him, Mikkels said, but other artists have done it.
“This might remind (the public) of Billy Graham,” he said. “When he’d do his crusades, he’d always get a local choir. It’s kind of a reminisce of that.”
Cheri Hamilton spearheaded the small group of local residents that will sing. She and her husband are involved with the Mitchell Area Community Theatre, directing and acting in musicals. She said she called several residents she knew were involved in music to see if they would be interested in singing with Smith.
For Bill Hamilton, singing onstage is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“When will I, or any of us, get on the stage with 8,000 or 9,000 people (in the audience)? This sends a very important message and I think a lot of people will take it to heart,” he said.
Smith’s song “Friends” was sung at the Hamiltons’ wedding. But the song holds a more special meaning for Cheri Hamilton. She worked at Children’s Home Society in Sioux Falls for years, and once a child was discharged, she would sing “Friends” in a duet at a candlelit ceremony.
“It was always so emotional for those kids when another friend left. The song allowed the kids to say goodbye, but to let the child leaving know that ‘though it hurts to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a lifetime’s not too long, to live as friends.’ It has a lot of emotional meaning for me.”
Each of the 12 songs will be memorized. Cheri Hamilton ordered the music for each of the songs, and she, her husband and daughter, Laurriee Bentson, practice any chance they get. Sometimes, the practices are just short of an hour over the couple’s lunch break.
Memorization hasn’t been too much of a challenge, though. Cheri Hamilton said many of the songs are her favorites, and the others are now new favorites. The repetition of phrases in Smith’s music has made it easy to learn, she said.
“It’s really inspirational. When you sing the same phrase over and over it just goes right to your soul.”
Youngstrom, also of Mitchell will join the Hamiltons on stage. Youngstrom attended a Christian summit in Estes Park, Colo., and heard Smith, along with other Christian artists like Mercy Me and Amy Grant.
“Michael came in and immediately said ‘Let’s sing,’ ” Youngstrom said.
Before the first line of the song was finished, he said the entire room had burst into the song. It’s something Youngstrom always remembered, and he wants to be part of something inspirational like that again.
There are still a few hundred tickets left, Mikkels said. Tickets are $27 and can be purchased by calling 605-334-8181 or at all Ticketmaster locations.