Connect with us

Local News

After 65 years, a Bismarck man is still singing in the Messiah choir



Bismarck, North Dakota – The capital city’s annual Christmas tradition is to perform Handel’s “Messiah.” Up to 70 volunteer singers have been rehearsing the traditional holiday concert at Trinity Lutheran church for 92 years.

Every year, there are new faces, but there are also some seasoned vocalists who are debuting.

As he sings this chorus, Harley Swenson is at ease.

“I enjoy the singing. I enjoy the people,” he said.

For the past 65 years, he has been performing Handel’s Messiah.

“I could probably do pretty darn well even without the music because if I haven’t memorized it by now I probably won’t,” he laughed.

As a senior at UND in 1957, Harley made his singing debut.

“We sang in a church in downtown Grand Forks,” he recalled.

Since 1958, he has been singing at Trinity Lutheran in Bismarck. Harley has only missed two concerts throughout the years—once due to illness and once due to his daughter’s wedding.

Family members frequently accompany Harley. Mark, his son, has been singing for a while.

“I like singing now. I hated singing when I was younger,” said Mark.

The granddaughter and daughter of Harley have also joined.

“It’s just another thing that we can share together and enjoy together and make memories,” said Harley.

With his music, Harley has safely stored those memories. Harley, who is 86 years old, is still singing.

“They can’t get rid of me, I guess,” he laughed.

Because of this, Harley is unable to avoid thinking back on earlier years and the genuine spirit of Christmas.

The Hallelujah Chorus, according to Harley, is his favorite section of the Messiah. He claims that part of the performance was the most motivational and profound.