Fifty-One years ago on December 17 & 18, the Iowa Mennonite School classes of 1966 and 1967 presented Gian-Carlo Menotti’s classic one-act opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, on the Hillcrest Union stage. This December 17 at 7:30 PM, the beloved Amahl and the Night Visitors returns to IMS, this time on the Celebration Hall stage for one night only.
Many folks remember watching Menotti’s opera in 1953 when it debuted in black and white on television, the first production for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. The timeless story of the three Magi’s visit to the home of Amahl, the crippled shepherd boy and his mother, while on their journey to seek the Christ child, soon became a Christmastime tradition.
That tradition came to life at IMS in 1965 when choir instructor Ralph Alderfer directed the juniors and seniors on the Hillcrest Union stage for their own production. Martha Yoder Graber (the Mother) and Emmy Yoder Brenneman (Amahl) remember the fun of rehearsing several hours daily and finally performing together. Art Swartzendruber, (King Kasper), fondly remembers singing “This Is My Box”, the comical part of the production, and how special the cast was in pulling off such a difficult production. Kenton Miller and Larry Miller played the other two kings, Melchior and Balthazar. Bonnie Slaubaugh Stuckey, (accompanist), remembers rehearsing with an old upright piano in the lower level of Hillcrest Union, then playing on a rented Yamaha piano from West Music for the actual production. According to the IMS student newspaper, The Reflector, over 500 people attended each of the two performances.
Fast forward 51 years. Unlike the student production of 1965, the current production will come together over a three day period, with talented IMS alumni and friends previously rehearsing on their own, then joining together to perform.
The show features the talents of Dr. Lara Troyer (’90), vocal instructor at Kent State University, as the mother; her 3rd grade son Henry as Amahl, Dr. Bill Eash (IMS music teacher, ’76-’78;’79-’84) and currently Choral Music Department chair at Bethel College, KS), Dr. Scott Hochstetler (Choral Music Department Chair at Goshen College, IN), and Nathan Swartzendruber (’05) graduate assistant in the U of Iowa choral department as the three Kings. The page role will be sung by Stuart Yoder, (’00), of Jefferson City, MO. Alumni and community friends forming the shepherd choir include: Nici Bontrager, Anne Buckwalter, Margaret Dyck, Carmen Fish, Heidi Gingerich, Marty Gingerich, Martha Graber, Myron Graber, Steve Groenwald, Alisa Kandel, Dick See, Donna Swartzendruber, Michael Swartzendruber, Becky Widmer, Jon Widmer, Allison Yoder, Atlee Yoder, Carolyn Yoder, Karenza Yoder, Matthew Yoder, and Trent Yoder. Shepherd dancers are IMS students Peyton Hart and Gretta Rempel. Susan See will provide accompaniment, along with oboists Bob McConnell and IMS student, Greta Schrag.
Reserved seat tickets are going fast, but can be purchased by calling the IMS office (656-2073; 683-2586) during school hours.