Each Monday evening at 6:30, 44 girls from throughout the Twin Cities metro area bound down the staircase at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis and take their places in a basement choir room. Hugs and smiles are traded as the girls, in grades 8-12, greet one another.
The focus quickly changes to warm-ups as the Partners in Praise Girls Choir begins its weekly rehearsal. Music binders are pulled out in unison and it’s all business for two hours as Julia Fahey, founder and artistic director, works through a broad repertoire of pieces — including challenging sacred and world music — with the choir in preparation for upcoming local concerts and this summer’s competition at the Golden Gate International Children’s and Youth Choral Festival.
“PIP is about making quality music and building bridges throughout the world with our music,” said Fahey, who offers local, national and international singing opportunities for choir members (selected by audition each fall), such as last summer’s performance on the stage of the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
Now in its 18th year, PIP also sings at numerous churches each season, including an annual Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis and a Christmas concert at the Historic Church of St. Peter in Mendota Heights.
Fahey formed the choir in 1994 specifically for the production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” starring Donny Osmond. The choir, 23 boys and girls, performed in 52 shows at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
“That experience was so positive for the kids; a lot of the girls said, ‘We don’t want to stop singing,’” noted Fahey, middle school choir teacher and department chair at the Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights.
“I prayed about it, talked to my husband and decided I would put together an all-girls choir as there already were a lot of boys choirs in the area,” Fahey said. “PIP is all about the music making and changing lives, giving girls leadership opportunities and empowering them to have their dreams in life.”
Julia Reimann and Ellie Musser, who will graduate from East Ridge High School in Woodbury next month, are completing their last year in PIP. Both young women, who are also active cantors and 12-year choir members in music ministry at St. Ambrose of Woodbury, appreciate the experience that PIP provides.
“Because of PIP, I have had the opportunity to witness other ways of worship, and I believe this has only strengthened my faith,” said Reimann. “I am able to experience these faiths and music all together, and to fully realize the power of faith as well as music.”
Musser agreed. “Singing with PIP definitely strengthens my faith on a weekly basis; just walking into rehearsal and being greeted by so many smiles is uplifting,” she said. “Both the music and the relationships created through the choir have allowed my personal faith to flourish in ways I’d never imagined.”
Reimann, who will study music at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and Musser, who will study music and English writing at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., both plan to participate in choir at college as well as music ministry.
They said they also look forward to singing at the upcoming St. Ambrose of Woodbury PIP Mass and Concert May 19, which will also include PIP’s younger counterpart, Con Brio Girls Choir, comprised of 18 girls in grades 4-8 also directed by Fahey.
“We’re going to take the audience on a trip around the world in this concert, performing a lot of our competition selections as well as spirituals and sacred music including Franz Biebl’s spectacular ‘Ave Maria,’” Fahey said.
If you go
• What: Partners in Praise Girls Choir and Con Brio Girls Choir Concert
• When: 4 p.m. Mass, 7 p.m. concert, Saturday, May 19
• Where: St. Ambrose of Woodbury, 4125 Woodbury Dr., Woodbury
• More info: (763) 744-8169 or http://www.partnersinpraise.org