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Cantata to raise funds to build homeless shelter

Orchestra and choir members representing more than 20 area churches rehearse March 30 for the third “Song of the Shadows” cantata set for April 13 at the Sheldon Theatre. (Republican Eagle photo by Amanda Greenwood)

On April 13, members of several area churches will take the stage at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, presenting “Song of the Shadows” for the third annual Holy Week service.

There will be two services. The first begins at 3 p.m. and the second at 4:30 p.m.

Director Dawn Conroy-Pretto’s excitement is twofold: one, to present this “moving” candlelight service on the Sheldon’s stage for the first time, and, two, to raise money for the development of a homeless shelter in Red Wing.

“I have always had a heart for the homeless,” Conroy-Pretto said.

She explained how her son once asked her if his friend could move in with their family. This request surprised Conroy-Pretto at the time. Her son’s friend had never mentioned or appeared to be living couch-to-couch.

“I did not realize he had no place to live,” she said.

Despite having three children of her own to care for, Conroy-Pretto took in the friend as a foster child — a decision she described as life-changing.

“He so blessed our family. My children never had a strong sense of entitlement, but they developed a deeper sense of gratitude,” Conroy-Pretto said.

During the Palm Sunday services, donations will be taken at the entrances and exits to support the building of a local homeless shelter. There is no admission charge for the show.

Conroy-Pretto said that last year’s audience numbers totaled around 500 for each service, so she suggests calling ahead to the Sheldon Theatre to reserve seats.

“There is no charge for the reservation … the Sheldon does not hold 500, so we are advising to call ahead in case the theater starts filling up that afternoon,” she said.

As in the past, the performance takes audience members through a musical experience reflecting the journey of Christ to the Crucifixion, a preparatory performance for to Easter Sunday.

“It is a time to reflect,” Conroy-Pretto said.

Vocalist Sue Dierckes, who has been part of the performance all three years, said that “Song of Shadows” is a very moving experience.

“It tells the story very well,” she said.

This year’s performance will open with information about the homeless shelter development as well as special music by the First Covenant Church Discovery Hour Children’s Choir. The full choir and orchestra will then perform eight songs created by Joseph M. Martin.

The composer’s introduction, written by Martin, states:

“The earthly life of Christ began in shadows. By the flickering of a candle flame in a rugged stable, the Light of the World delivered himself into our darkness.”

For more information, contact Conroy-Pretto at 651-388-2385.

If you go...

What: Holy Week service with donations benefiting a potential homeless shelter.

When: 3 and 4:30 p.m. April 13

Where: Sheldon Theatre

Cost: Admission is free; donations taken at the door

Director’s tip: Call ahead to reserve your seats at 651-388-8700