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Get into the spirit of Christmas at Jefferson High School's final Christmas concert

The Jefferson High School (JHS) Music Department will present the 2013 Christmas Concert, “The Spirit of Christmas,” on Sunday, December 15 at 3 and 5:30 p.m.

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The concerts will be in the Jefferson High School gymnasium in Alexandria and will feature more than 300 musicians.

Featured groups include the JHS Philharmonia, Select Women’s Choir, Sinfonia, Carolers, Mixed Choir, Les Marquise, Rainbow Strings, Concert Choir, the Silhouettes, the Lincoln Elementary School Children’s Choir, and the Alexandria Area Men’s Chorus.

Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for students.

A LONG-TIME TRADITION “The Alexandria High School Christmas Concert is a long-standing tradition in the community of Alexandria,” said Steve Deitz, JHS vocal music director. “The concert has been an important part of school and community calendars for over 70 years.”

In the winter of 1940, the Alexandria high school music department had two instructors: Harold Arentson, instrumental; and Gretchen Steiler, vocal. There were two high school bands with more than 100 members, an orchestra of 85, and the boys’ and girls’ glee clubs later combined to create an a cappella choir of 60 members.

The Christmas concerts were an important event, and one of the most attended school concerts of the year.

Murrae Freng had taught six years in Brooten before moving to Alexandria in 1952. With him came the evolving idea of a Christmas “pageant.” Artwork and narration were added to this event, which became as much a worship service as a Christmas concert.

When Freng left Alexandria in 1965 he was replaced by Les Dehlin, who previously taught in Staples. Both Freng and Dehlin were graduates of Concordia College in Moorhead, and had studied under Paul J. Christiansen.

As a result, the Alexandria choral program and Christmas concert, from 1952 to 1987, had a strong Concordia-inspired flavor.

“Through its history, the music department has reflected the society in which it serves,” noted Deitz. “It ever changes and evolves to meet the demands of students and community, yet retains deep connections with the past.”

Basically, the JHS music department functions in the same modern program that was outlined by Arentson in the 1930s.

The Christmas concerts continue much in the same vein as begun in the 1950s. They begin and end with chimes, there is no applause, and narration creates a thread between all of the musical selections. The choirs are now under the direction of Steve Deitz.

In 2008, the concert orchestra was added to the performance under the direction of Brad Lambrecht, and has boosted attendance and programming possibilities.

Over the years, the concert has featured the Voyager Children’s Chorus, local church bell choirs and other local adult musicians.