APS Column: The 50th anniversary of the Austinaires Show

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

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By Kalle Akkerman

AHS Choir Director

Here in Austin, we are blessed to have so many entities that foster a genuine sense of community pride. To mention a few: we have a Fortune 500 company, a cancer research center, Riverland Community College, the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, Matchbox and Sommerset theatres, Austin Area Arts, the Austin Artists Series, the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Community Band, the YMCA at the Austin Community Recreation Center, dozens of impressive dining establishments, city parks, organizations, religious institutions, and, of course, our public school district. 

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“Community” is a word that gets used a lot in Austin, and it is one of the major reasons that made my decision to return to Austin as easy as it was. All the institutions, organizations, churches and people in Austin made a lasting impression on my high-school self as a student-musician at AHS-especially as an Austinaire. For that reason, I was inspired to come back and reinvest in the community that helped me to realize my own dreams.

The Austinaires came to be sometime in the 50s as a madrigal ensemble, mostly singing polyphony of the renaissance era. As the group progressed into the 70s, the flavor of the repertoire was seasoned with more popular standards and musical theatre numbers arranged for choral singing (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). Today, the Austinaires is known as a “show choir,” singing mostly popular tunes.

As the times change, so does the music. One thing that remains constant though, is the outcome of each performance. Even though the driving philosophy, the reason why we sing, has taken many different avenues to get to where it is today, the audiences each year are enlivened and inspired by the music that is shared. From renaissance music to current hits, the Austinaires have done and continue to do it all. 

As the AHS Choral Department prepares its annual spring show this year, we are excited to continue in a legacy of performance that has been going on for five decades. This year,  The Austinaires Show celebrates its 50th anniversary. The show as we know it started with director Richard Larson in 1973. The theme for that first show was “Disney,” and they sang over 50 Disney songs, or at least snippets of them, on the stage in Christgau Hall. The Austinaires even sang a few numbers while the movie (on a film reel) was being projected onto a sheet in the corner of the main floor.

While much has changed in our technology and repertoire since 1973, the most important and impressive thing that goes unchanged is the harmony of human voices, singing together to bring our hearts and minds into a common good. For over 70 years, the Austinaires has been a growing community, tying together its people, places, times, and cultures, with music. 

As we near the 50th performance of this show, we want you, the community, to know that the impact of your support of the Austinaires and all its members as they carry out their musical lives around the world. The Austinaires is a life-changing experience for all involved, and it would not be possible without the support of our community. The Austinaires is a multi-generational family and a worldly community. Come and be a part of the celebration, as we present this year’s 50th Anniversary show, “Disney: The Circle of Life.” Shows will be April 13-15 at 7 p.m. in Christgau Hall. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students, and are available at Austin Hy-Vee or at AHS. You can also purchase tickets at the door, if we have any available.