From a Lutefisk-themed Christmas carol to Puccini’s “Ave Maria,” the Minneapolis Area Knights of Columbus Male Chorus has been sharing the joy of music with audiences for 55 years.
More than just the music, the chorus offers members camaraderie and an opportunity to serve others.
The Minneapolis Area Knights of Columbus Male Chorus was established in 1957. At that time, its primary purpose was to sing at special Masses honoring new officers for several Knights of Columbus councils.
One of the founding members, Raymond Herkenhoff, still sings with the chorus. It seems obvious that the joy of singing is what keeps him coming back every year, but he especially enjoys singing at mass.
“I love the Mass. It’s very special to me, and when I sing the Mass it’s for the honor and glory of God,” Herkenhoff said.
Today, the chorus has 25 active members from seven different Knights of Columbus councils and nine parishes in the Minneapolis area. They continue to sing at annual Knights of Columbus installations but have added many other events to their schedule, including memorial services and Christmas programs.
Their repertoire of songs has expanded as well. The chorus continues to sing Mass music, but members have added other religious songs, Christmas carols and even a few show tunes to their performances.
The chorus spends most of December visiting nursing homes and other care centers. The Christmas program includes Christmas carols, lots of laughs, and even a visit from Santa. Residents at many care centers look forward to the chorus’ Christmas program each year, members said.
“More than 100 people gather in our chapel to watch the Knights perform,” said Steve Williams, director of therapeutic recreation at St. Therese of New Hope. “We absolutely love them, and they bring much joy to our residents.”
The “Big Sing” is another event chorus members look forward to each year.
The group has been a member of the Associated Male Choruses of America since 1964. The upper-Midwest district of the AMCA hosts an annual weekend gathering of more than 350 voices where members share music, fellowship and a spirit of service.
New voices welcome
As the chorus continues to evolve, new voices are always welcome. Currently, members range in age from 55 to 101.
“Getting new members is a major concern since our average age is 76 years young,” said Jerry Simcoe, the chorus’ general manager.
The chorus recruits most of its members from the choirs of Minneapolis-area parishes. Simcoe jokes about his best recruiting strategy: “I always like to ask the wives if they’d like to get their husbands out of the house for two hours per week, nine months per year.”
New singers need to be male adults and practicing Catholics; they do not need to be members of the Knights of Columbus. Spouses regularly attend performances and are invited to the annual Big Sing weekend.
Join the chorus
The Minneapolis Area Knights of Columbus Male Chorus performs a wide range of music, including classical, spiritual, seasonal and even a few show tunes. The chorus season runs from September through June with weekly practices and approximately 25 performances. You do not need to be a member of the Knights of Columbus to join. For more information, contact chorus general manager Jerry Simcoe at (763) 315-0657.