BAXTER -- Although the Legacy Chorale includes singers from as far north as Hackensack and as far south as Maple Grove, choral manager Bob Nelson doesn't have to look far to find four of the members: They are right there in his Baxter home.
The Nelson family, including Bob, 50; Shari, 48; and their three sons -- Chad, 24; and twins Eric and James, 22 -- all landed spots with the 50-member choir.
Legacy Chorale's fall season gets under way with the fund-raiser "Autumn in New York: Favorites from Broadway and the Met" at 6 p.m. Sept. 27 at Cragun's in East Gull Lake. Tickets are $50. The fall program, "An American Tapestry," is slated Nov. 1-2 with performances in Brainerd, Aitkin and St. Cloud.
Interest in singing and playing instruments has been a common bond for the Nelson family as the three boys grew up in Moorhead; Elkhorn City, Ky.; and Baxter. Bob had sung with James and Chad as part of Brainerd's summer variety show "Rhythm of the Rails," but the Legacy Chorale marks the first time all five Nelsons are in a choir together.
"They have their schedule and we have ours," Bob said before rehearsal Tuesday night at Lord of Life Church in Baxter. "This is our one common interest."
The Nelson boys represent the youngest end of the Legacy Chorale spectrum, which also includes retirees and high school choir directors (Mike Smith of Brainerd, Wayne Ellingsen of Crosby-Ironton and Rob Freelove of Pillager) and at least one man, Joe Gans of Aitkin, who didn't take up singing until he was 40.
It's no surprise that music is still a part of the younger Nelsons' lives. When the boys were infants, Shari and Bob held them while singing in church choirs.
If you go
What: Autumn in New York: Favorites from Broadway and the Met, Legacy Chorale fund-raiser featuring performance and meal
When: 6 p.m. Sept. 27
Where: Craguns in East Gull Lake
Tickets: $50. Tickets must be purchased by Sept. 24 and are available at The Dispatch, Bridge of Harmony and Music General in Brainerd, and Lakes Music in Pequot Lakes, (218) 820-6034, firstname.lastname@example.org
"The interest has always been there," James said. "I don't remember a time when I wasn't into music."
What is surprising is that Chad, Eric and James have the opportunity to continue singing in a topnotch choir after high school and college.
Chad, who was a member of the renowned choir at Concordia College in Moorhead, is mulling a music teaching career, but he said becoming a professional performer or educator is "incredibly hard. It takes tons of schooling and motivation. But that's my big hope and dream and it may happen someday."
James and Eric attended Brown College in Minneapolis and started careers in computer repair, but the economic downturn brought them back to Baxter.
The Legacy Choir is a thrill for the entire family.
"Bob and I have waited all our lives to sing in a group like this," Shari said. "It enticed the boys as well. As well as they did in high school and college, there was very little opportunity to sing with excellence again."
Regardless of what career path they choose, the younger Nelsons believe the discipline they've learned through choir and band will serve them will.
They gained an appreciation for the programs at Moorhead High School and Brainerd High School after Bob's Army recruiting position landed the family in Elkhorn City in the 1980s.
"Choirs don't exist in Kentucky outside of church," Chad said. "Minnesota has a superior education system. In first grade (in Moorhead), I was an average student, but when we moved to Kentucky I was considered gifted just because I could read. It was eye-opening."
In Elkhorn City's economically depressed and culturally deprived grade school, students and parents had to raise funds for things such as carpet and copy machines. The music program didn't start until 10th grade. Church was the only place for a younger student to hone his singing skills.
Shari said that in Kentucky, church was a "very integral part of what you did, because there was nothing else to do."
The Brainerd lakes area may boast more entertainment options than Elkhorn City, but singing in the Legacy Chorale is all the Nelsons need to be happy.
"It's really exciting to finally sing together," Shari said.
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