Coon Rapids church to stage Easter musical

A long-standing Easter tradition continues this year at Presbyterian Church of the Master, Coon Rapids.

The church will present an Easter musical, “Hallelujah, Praise The Lamb,” in two performances at the church tomorrow (Saturday, March 24) and Sunday, March 25, both at 6:30 p.m.

Becky McDuffie Horning, the organist at the church, is director of both the musical itself as well as the choir for the production.

It was Horning that started the Easter musical tradition at the church back in 1988 with a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Since that time, a musical was staged every year until 2007, then since 2008 on every even-numbered year, according to Horning.

And only once has Horning repeated a previous production. That was in 1994 when “Jesus Christ Superstar” was reprised, she said.

“Otherwise we have put on different musicals each year,” Horning said.

At the end of each year, Horning has a music publishing company send her scores from a dozen or so new Easter musicals that she listens to and picks for Presbyterian Church of the Master to perform the following Easter.

“Hallelujah, Praise The Lamb” is a “brand new musical,” Horning said.

The musical was created by Sue C. Smith and Cliff Duren with Duren arranging and orchestrating the musical.

But Horning is not using all the songs from the original score, she said.

About one-third of the songs are from the original score; the other two-thirds are “favorite” songs from past productions that she has adapted and fitted into this show, according to Horning.

“I have written some different scenes to blend them in,” Horning said.

“Not all Christian music is great to listen to.”

The musical starts in the Garden of Eden, then jumps forward to the 40 days and nights that Jesus spent in the desert withstanding Satan’s temptations, Horning said.

Then the play splits into two different settings, one focusing on Judas Iscariot and the other Matthew, before focusing on the events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper and the Resurrection.

“We witness the wonder of the Resurrection and review the power of the cross and all that it has to offer all of us,” Horning states in the production program.

“We are then reminded of Jesus being in heaven, interceding for us still, and we reflect on the reason for all of this with the words of our closing song, ‘Hallelujah, Praise The Lamb.”

The different scenes in the production are tied together by the play’s narrator (Diane Townsend-Anderson), while the leading characters are performed by Craig Bartels (Judas) and Bill McDuffie (Matthew).

Jesus Christ (Bob McDuffie) appears in only one scene and musical number, Horning said.

The production features a 40-member choir. “We are blessed with so many great singers,” Horning said.

Not all are from the church, however. “About two-thirds of the choir are church members and one-third are people from the community who join us for each production,” Horning said.

There is also live music with Sue Clair on the piano, Ben McDuffie on the keyboard/synthesizer, Toby Ramsaway on drums, plus musicians playing the French horn, trombones and two flutes.

Set in biblical times, the main characters appear in period costume, while video clips from the time period will be shown on a screen during the show, according to Horning.

There will be a dessert bar after each performance and there is no charge to attend.

Doors open for seating about 6 p.m. each evening.

A freewill offering will be taken and nursery care will be provided.

For more information call 763-755-2667.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]