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Spiritual hymns, jovial tunes peformed during concert

POLSON — Spirituality and joviality were in vogue Sunday afternoon at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. 

The Mission Valley Choral Society’s 55th annual Christmas Concert included the Copeland Memorial Ringers. 

After an introduction by 90-something Patty Ferdinand on piano, the choral society’s 26 singers took the platform to sing seven spiritual hymns. 

Following a brief interlude, it was the bell ringers’ chance to shine. They played four songs and then combined with the choir for a joint performance before the choir finished with three jovial tunes. The finale was a spoken “Santa’s on his way” medley. 

The 12-person bell ringing group was led by longtime former Polson High School band teacher Robert Mazurek. 

 Mazurek explained that he began directing the bell ringers just in time for Polson to host the Big Sky Handbell Festival in 2015. 

“I was supposed to fill in for three months and it’s been three years!” he said, adding that directing the bell ringers was a new experience for him after teaching for 40 years, including 35 at PHS. 

“A lot of the ladies talked me into it,” he said, noting that several bell ringers are former students or colleagues (teachers). 

The bell ringers and choral society practice once a week at First Presbyterian Church except during the summer months. 

Mason Niblack Sr. is in his 11th year directing the choral society. 

He notes that members range in age from 18 to 80 or so. 

“We have fun doing this,” he said.

Kim Sheesley has been singing with the group since 2002. 

“I love these people and I love to sing,” she said. “I can’t imagine not singing this concert every year.”

“I call it amplifying your Christmas spirit,” she said of the well-attended event. 

Sheesley’s daughter, Ruth Reneau, began singing with the choral society as a sophomore at Polson High School when Chris Bumgarner directed the group, she said. 

This was the third year that Reneau, now a Great Falls resident, has made the trip across the mountains for the concert. 

Reneau, who has been a teacher and is now a stay-at-home mother, said she hopes to move back to the Polson area and eventually replace Niblack as director. 

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