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NP doctor’s arrangement to be featured at anniversary event for choir

March 31, 2017 GMT

The celebration of the Heartland Singers’ 30th anniversary will be highlighted by the performance of a new choral arrangement.

“This will be the world premiere of a new piece of choral literature by our very own Dr. Kim Baxter,” said Glenn Van Velson, director of Sunday’s concert. “He wrote ‘Nebraska Skies,’ which was copyrighted in 1984, and he’s performed it countless times with Chance, but this is the first time it has been arranged for a choral setting.”

The concert Sunday is at 3 p.m. at the Neville Center for Performing Arts.

Baxter is an optometrist who is involved in many aspects of North Platte life, including music.

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“Kim is an example of using his talents for the greater good, I think,” Van Velson said. “I know that comes from his religious faith. He followed his father’s example for working for the greater good and being involved in the community.”

Baxter has served on many community boards and he takes regular optometry missionary trips to South and Central American.

“Kim has special talents and he has always utilized those,” Van Velson said. “He’s one of the reasons North Platte is a great place to live.”

The Heartland Singers began after Don and Virginia Pederson of North Platte heard a similar group perform in Grand Island. Virginia Pederson wanted a vibrant choral group in North Platte. She died in 2002, but her dream of a group to promote the appreciation of music and to serve as an outlet for musical talent is still alive today.

“The first concert for Heartland Singers was March 1, 1987,” Van Velson said. He and his wife were on the organization’s original board. “We kind of modeled the organization after the Grand Island City Singers.”

One aspect hasn’t changed over the 30 years of the organization.

“We’ve had the same accompanists for all those 30 years, Mary Lynn Horst and Karen Matthies,” Van Velson said. “Fred Ritter was the first director. He was the high school choral arts instructor at the time, and Dick Hall, Tim Vanderheiden, Lyman Anderson, Chrysanne Bailey and Ray Ochoa were some of the previous directors of the group as well.”

The choir has about 65 members, including about nine who were with the original group, but Van Velson said all the members don’t participate in every concert.

“In 30 years, there’s times when you can’t make all those concerts,” Van Velson said.

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Another twist will be a new costume for the ladies.

“That’s always exciting because we’ve had costume changes through the years,” Van Velson said.

The first half of this concert is sacred music.

“Then we do some folk songs and other songs that are more to commemorate the 150th anniversary of statehood,” Van Velson said. “We wonder what was the music like and what are some songs from that period, so we’re singing ‘Oh Susanna,’ ‘Shenandoah’ and more in the mood and style from that time period and about that time period.”

Van Velson said the group hasn’t found a permanent director, so he is filling the position temporarily. An attorney, Van Velson originally majored in music in college and earned bachelor of fine arts and bachelor of arts degrees before going to law school.

“I was going to be a music teacher, a band director,” Van Velson said. “I love marching band and I was going to teach in high schools. That changed my junior year or so when somebody suggested, ‘You’re a pretty smart fella, you could go to law school, because lawyers make more than music teachers,’ which I’m not so sure of anymore.”

Van Velson also plays in the city band, Sandhills Symphony and various pit orchestras for the North Platte Community Playhouse and North Platte High School musical productions.

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