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'Christmas in New England': Musical to show this weekend

“The Christian aspect of it, you know, is front and center,” Julie Opdahl said. “It's a wonderful way to bring in the holiday season.”

christmas in new england
Backrow from left: Samantha Kathrein, Harlee Romanyshyn, Ariana Perojo, Hannah Dinius, Front row: Olivia Herring, Brianna Hoerath, Abby Binstock and Brayden Krebs sing "Comin Down the Chimney."
Contributed / Nancy Belland
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NEW ENGLAND, N.D. — Performers across three counties are coming together to usher in the Christmas season during “Christmas in New England” this weekend. This is the seventh time Fine Arts Culture and Events of New England (FACE) has organized the event over the last 20 years, committee member Nancy Belland said.

“We do it every three years because it is such an undertaking,” Belland said. “What's so special about it is it encompasses people from all of southwestern North Dakota. We have people from Hettinger, Mott, Dickinson, New England – it encompasses Adams Hettinger and Stark County.”

The show features 65 people and includes a choir, musicians, a living nativity and other performances. FACE hires a director, pianist and sound man and then everybody else involved volunteers their time, Belland said. A new show is performed every time, but the living nativity has been a staple every year, she added.

“We do different music and different guest soloists,” Belland said. “The only thing that is the same, which we do every time is we honor our men and women of service, whether they're in the military, firemen, EMTs, Sheriff's Department, doctors, nurses, anyone who gives of themselves for others.”

The performers range in age from 85 to an infant in the nativity, Julie Opdahl, FACE committee member, said.

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“The Christian aspect of it, you know, is front and center, of course,” Opdahl said. “It's a wonderful way to bring in the holiday season.”

The performers have been rehearsing since August to be sure every detail is perfect, she added.

“We have costumes, little acts and fun props. It isn't just a choir performance,” Opdahl said. “There's a lot of people who have worked long and hard. We put together a really, really nice show.”

christmas in New England
Backrow from left: Samantha Kathrein, Harlee Romanyshyn, Ariana Perojo, Hannah Dinius, Front row: Olivia Herring, Brianna Hoerath, Abby Binstock and Brayden Krebs sing "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus."
Contributed / Nancy Belland

In the past, their final dress rehearsal has been performed for the inmates of Dakota Women's Correctional Rehab Center, Belland said.

“Oh they love it,” Belland said. “It helps us too because then we have an audience. Then with our children and their cutesy songs, they learn how to pause during the laughter and conversation they hear from the audience. So it's a win-win for all of us.”

Tickets for Christmas in New England can be purchased at the door, Bravera Bank and Dakota West Credit Union in New England or Eckroth Music in Dickinson. The tickets cost $12 for adults, $8 for students and are free for kids younger than kindergarten. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“Your heart will be full when you leave,” Opdahl said.

There is a social hour held after each performance, she added.

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“All our singers go downstairs too and they can visit with each other and it's just a way of saying thank you for coming into our show,” Belland said.

Members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church in New England will provide cookies for the social hour.

“The two churches work together really, really well,” Opdahl said. “It takes a village. I mean, there's a lot of people in a lot of places that make this come together.”

Ashley Koffler is a Killdeer, North Dakota native and Dickinson State University graduate, with a Bachelor’s Degree in writing, and minors in journalism and psychology. Formerly working in Community Affairs for Roosevelt Custer Regional Council for Development, her reporting focuses on Stark County and other rural municipality governments, community features, business and agriculture — among others.
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