Joining forces and voicesIn the 50 years the Red Wing Singers has performed, the group has have never shared the stage – until now.
By: Stacy Bengs, The Republican Eagle
In the 50 years the Red Wing Singers has performed, the group has have never shared the stage – until now. The bluegrass rhythms of the well-known Monroe Crossing meet the gospel chorus of the Red Wing Singers Saturday March 16 at the Sheldon Theatre.
Each group will highlight its interpretation of some bluegrass classics and then combine to perform "The World Beloved - A Bluegrass Mass," written for Monroe Crossing by Minnesota composer Carol Barnett.
“We are thrilled to be performing on the same stage with them,” said Robb Rutledge, Red Wing Singers president.
The concert has been over a year in the making. In fact, Monroe Crossing changed its booked schedule to make it happen.
“We wanted to get a larger audience,” Rutledge said, mentioning the audience size has been dwindling a bit over the past few years. “We wanted something new – and this is a win-win for both. It exposes something to the community they have never seen before.”
Combining the two groups has been exciting for choir members but at the same time the experience has stretched their abilities.
“This is the most challenging, yet rewarding piece I have ever worked on,” Red Wing Singers member Ada Larson said. “It has required many hours of practice outside of our rehearsal by each member of the choir, and just as many for director Peter Dulak, as there are multiple time signature changes throughout the piece.”
Rutledge said the music was the most challenging he has seen in his 15 years with Red Wing Singers.
Monroe Crossing comprises five distinct personalities with differing musical backgrounds and tastes, combining for a unique ensemble sound. The band includes Derek Johnson on guitar, lead and harmony vocals; Lisa Fuglie on the fiddle, mandolin, lead and harmony vocals; Matt Thompson on mandolin, fiddle and baritone vocals; Mark Anderson on bass and bass vocals; and David Robinson on the banjo.
Their paths crossed through the music of Bill Monroe, so they like to say they had a “Monroe Crossing.”
Among its many honors, Monroe Crossing was selected to showcase at the 2007 International Bluegrass Music Association Convention, and the groups were inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2007. The only bluegrass band ever nominated as Artist of the Year by the Minnesota Music Academy, Monroe Crossing won the 2003 MMA Bluegrass Album of the Year. The group also took home four awards – for female vocalist, guitar, mandolin and banjo – at the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association’s 25th Anniversary Awards.
The Red Wing Singers hired Monroe Crossing through a grant awarded by the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council. Rutledge wrote a 30-page request, which was accepted in October.
“We went ahead and scheduled it a long time ago,” he said of the show. “We know we wanted it to happen either way.”
“I think our audience is in for a real treat with the Red Wing Singers combining with Monroe Crossing,” Larson added. “The group has worked hard to put on an exceptional show, the anticipation is high, and I don't believe anyone is going to be disappointed.”
Ticket prices are $22.50 for adults and $14.50 for students. Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Sheldon Theatre box office or at www.sheldontheatre.org
At a glance ...
Who:The Red Wing Singers with Monroe Crossing
When: 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday March 16
Where: Sheldon Theatre, 443 W. Third St.
Cost: $22.50 adults, $14.50 students
More info: 651-388-8700, 800-899-5759 or