December 10, 2009 at 8:38 a.m.
"Unexpected Company" is a 40-some member local choir, that only performs full blown concerts twice a year. They've been rehearsing mightily for weeks and on December 19, "UC" Director David Seaburg promises a 90-minute concert that will inspire deep thoughts, but still leave you feeling energized.
Seaburg said he spends a lot of time planning the shows and arranging tunes for what he calls "a great bunch of people" to work with.
Unexpected Company has been under Seaburg's direction a few years now and he's at the point where he's able to select songs that he says will be "...challenging but not frustrating" for his singers.
Unexpected Company first came together in 1982 the concept of six or seven founding members, chatting about music over coffee and pie at the old Rainbow Cafe in Lindstrom. Longtime singer John Chouinard said Unexpected Company members knew each other from church choirs, or they'd sung at some time in college or in barbershop, and missed the joy.
They ventured forth with their concept of a community choir, and tapped Chisago Lakes High School choir instructor Jim Iverson as their director.
For a time, the group was affiliated with Masquers Theatre in Forest Lake. Then, as Chouinard puts it, "we slacked off for a while," but interest rebounded in the late 1990s.
The choir began to gel and had about tripled in size, from its low of about 10 members.
It forged a supportive association with Chisago Lakes Community Education. This is the organizational umbrella the choir relies on to handle dues, administer director's stipends, schedule and help promote events.
Tragedy struck, some members still get misty eyed talking about it. Iverson was injured in a crash on a local rural road. The singers called upon Seaburg, choir director at Zion Lutheran in Chisago City at the time, as their "temporary" director, praying that Iverson would be returning. But the community ended up mourning Iverson's death.
Seaburg too has a background in public education.
He currently teaches fourth grade at Scandia Elementary School. He specialized first in vocal performance and music instruction in schools; but he soon understood that arts curriculum funding would be tenuous during his teaching career, so he added an elementary education teaching certification to his resume.
At a concert rehearsal, held in the Chisago Lakes High School choir room, Seaburg demonstrated his passion for instructing, and why this choir exudes such musicality.
Seaburg doesn't direct so much as dare you to keep up.
In the group's rehearsal of an arrangement of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" a highly animated Seaburg reaches out, almost touching the row of singers nearest him, emotionally goading them to "have fun" with the ooooohs that jazz-up the familiar lyrics. Starting over from the top, the singers did just that.
"We are the best kept secret in this area, that's what David says," remarked Carol Ostlie, choir member. Wally (Wendell) Ostlie added, "We would like to get more people out to our concerts to listen. I am amazed at the quality and range of voices."
Shirley Faber got involved with Unexpected Company when it was under Masquers Theatre in Forest Lake. She now makes the drive up to Lindstrom regularly, to practice at the high school. Others in the choir come from west Wisconsin and over to East Bethel.
Some joined because they were in choir in college and missed the experience. One had been in barbershop quartet programs before. There's even former Sweet Adelines members. You don't have to audition, but be prepared to be an active member. Portions of Unexpected Company sometimes show up to entertain at events like the Vietnam Healing Wall, Relay For Life and other community get-togethers.
Members said they enjoy the variety of the concerts and the way Seaburg arranges.
He explained that the holiday concert starts in his head on a "theme" and last year it was spirituals, this year's tag line is "Christmas Here We Come," embracing the season head-on.
Seaburg said as soon as one event is completed he's searching for new music. He wants a performance that appeals to his choir but also to future audiences. "I'll find a song title that just pops out at me," he continued. "I play them (sheet music) in my head, I also get to put on my stamp of creativity, it's very satisfying creatively.
"Sometimes they just don't work out (for the group). We give them a few tries in rehearsal before we move on.
"I'm very proud of what they do," Seaburg concluded.
Unexpected Company performs Saturday, Dec. 19, at 3 p.m. in the Chisago Lakes High School Performing Arts Center.
Tickets are $7 for adults and senior citizens and students can buy tickets for $5; available through the Community Education Office in Scotsdale Mall in Lindstrom, or at the door the afternoon of the show.
The group is wrapping up its 2009 season, but welcomes new members to learn more by contacting Community Education, after the first of the year, for information about spring rehearsals and the 2010 calendar of events.