BEMIDJI - Conductor Patricia (Pat) Mason of the Bemidji Chorale kept the program notes for the 33rd annual Mother's Day Concert a secret but, as it turned out, the tables were turned with a surprise for her and the singers.
During the first half of Sunday's concert, Chris Fettig, director of choral activities at Bemidji High School, approached the front of the chorale.
Mason looked at him curiously as to why he was stepping forward.
After a few opening comments, Fettig announced Mason and the singers were being recognized by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA-MN) with a special commendation award as an officially recognized 50th anniversary choral concert.
The anniversary award is given to a group noted for excellence in chorale music. Mason playfully accepted the award and lifted it to the audience for all to see, handed it to a singer and the concert resumed with an added air of enthusiasm for all.
"This organization has given us the opportunity to connect and dialogue, to learn from each other," said Bonnie Nelson, the ACDA-MN northwest district chair and choral director at Sauk Centre High School. "We find out what has worked well in other programs and support each other."
Mason said her membership in ACDA and the Dialogues is an important part of her teaching career.
"I have been a part of the Dialogues for years," she said. "We meet and spend a week together. I really appreciate the meetings and they have taught me so much about choral music. I am thrilled to receive this award on behalf of myself and the singers to add to the awards we have been given over the years but this one is special."
Ken Wold, a member of the chorale, welcomed Fettig moments before the concert began. While Wold learned of the presentation, he didn't have time to say anything.
"It was really a significant occasion to have the ACDA recognize us (Bemidji Chorale) in this way," said Wold. "Of course, I have also been a member for years and know the benefits of being associated with it."
It would appear that this is Mason's year for being recognized for her dedication to the arts and choral work in particular.
She will be honored next week as the Bemidji Community Arts Center 2012 Friend of the Arts.
Mason was nominated by friends and colleagues who have realized the impact she has had on this community, not only as a choral director but as a friend, teacher and mentor.