The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Brittany Allen
News Editor 

Hymning and Ha-Ha-ing


Lou Marzeles

CONTENTED CANTATA LEADER: Barb Stout, shown here leading the Christmas Cantata Choir at the Christmas Choir Concert in 2014, has directed the event for 36 years.

This season especially always seems to bring with it a heap of family traditions, whether that comes in the form of an annual mad dash to The Dalles or outlying Portland to snag Black Friday steals in family fashion or on the wings of first snow which calls for a first sled down Observatory Hill. For Barb Stout, Betty Fahlenkamp, and many other in the Goldendale community, this is cantata season.

This year marks year 36 for this community choral concert. The event actually started out as one exclusively put on by the Goldendale United Methodist Church (GUMC), but when Stout took the position of choir director at GUMC in 1980, she felt it was an experience that was meant to be shared.

"It actually kind of happened by accident," Stout explains; she recalls hearing many people from the Lutheran church and others in town say they'd love to sing in a Christmas choir. "It kind of snowballed from there and we just opened it up to anybody who wanted to sing. There was no church membership required or anything, it was just open to anybody in the community who wanted to sing."

Betty Fahlenkamp got involved because of her position as the fill-in pianist at GUMC.

"Betty agreed to do it, and we had so much fun the first year we did it that we've just done it ever since," Stout says. "I couldn't do it without her, and I wouldn't want to. [...] We always swore that if one of us got tired of it that was going to be it."

But so far they haven't and don't plan on stopping any time soon.

Many long-lasting relationships have been made through participation in the Cantata. Besides the strong friendship which has undoubtedly evolved over the years between Stout and Fahlenkamp, Stout actually met her husband Steve through the choir.

"If you join my family, that's just something we do," Barb says. "That was how I met my husband; he sang in the cantata choir."

It was a totally small-town love story. Girl meets boy. Mutual friends add their influence. Girl and boy get together and get married. Girl and boy live and sing together happily ever after and later make their children follow suit.

In years since, Barb and Steve's two daughters, and now their sons-in law, (and undoubtedly, in the future, their grandchildren), have been pulled into the tradition of making a joyful noise at this time of year.

The size of the choir varies between 25-40 singers every year, but the fun times and laughter are always a given. When asked if she had a favorite program from over the years, Stout replies:

"I enjoy all of them. We have so much fun when we're doing the rehearsals. We have a good time; we laugh a lot. If we weren't laughing, we probably wouldn't continue to do it. The finished product always comes out great, but we just have a good time in the process."

This year's program is called "A Family Christmas," and anybody interested in singing is still welcome to come. Rehearsals are on Sunday and Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. at the Goldendale United Methodist Church. The choir with not rehearse this Wednesday (too close to Thanksgiving), but the first performance will take place at Maryhill Winery on Dec. 17 at 3 p.m., and the main event is scheduled for Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Goldendale United Methodist Church. They will also be singing a selected song from the program at the Community Christmas Concert at the Goldendale High School on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

"As long as Betty wants to do it, we're still having fun," Stout says.

Stout explains that the atmosphere of the group isn't meant to be by any means strict. "[N]obody keeps track" of how many rehearsals you've missed or made. Stout encourages anyone who wants to join that there is still a place for them.

"We're still just kind of working our way through [the music]," Stout says. "I usually don't put a cut off. I figure if people feel that they've rehearsed enough that they can do it, I say, 'Come and join us.' There's no tryout necessary; it's open to everybody."


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