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Voices to blend in Open Road home concert

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The upcoming concert by the Bethel College men’s a cappella octet, Open Road, will preview the group’s new recording.

Open Road will perform Sunday, May 18, from a “wide variety of music,” including “both the secular and the sacred, from all genres and time periods.”

The 7 p.m. concert in Memorial Hall will highlight pieces from the group’s forthcoming recording Here by the Water, set to debut next fall, including the title piece, arranged by former Open Road member Aaron Linscheid of North Newton; “Beulah Land,” arranged by Esther Wiebe; “Suabian Folk Song” by Johannes Brahms; and the traditional “Low Down the Chariot.” Admission is free and open to the public, with pre-order forms available to reserve a copy of Here by the Water, priced at $15.

The concert will be especially significant for Open Road’s three senior members who, after four “blissful” years, will perform for the last time as a part of the octet.

Daniel Graber, Marion, S.D., will “miss the good times with all the other members [of Open Road].”

“Singing a cappella men’s music has been an enjoyment for me,” Graber says. “It is something I grew up doing. It is also very difficult as a musician. It requires careful attention to intonation at all times, but the most difficult aspect is blending with the other voices [because] each human voice has such different qualities.

“I have spent many hours with this group and it has been a wonderful experience,” Graber adds, “especially when you know people are enjoying your music.”

For senior Caley Ortman, Marion, S.D., Open Road “has been one of the highlights of my time at Bethel.”

“It really becomes like a family, in a way,” he says. “We organize our own rehearsals, performances and albums. On top of that, Bethel we’ve been honored to represent [Bethel] at the last two Mennonite conferences [in Charlotte, N.C., and San Jose, Calif.], among other places.

“We have very high expectations for ourselves,” Ortman continues. “It is a big challenge, but a very rewarding one. I doubt I will ever again get a chance to be a part of a small men’s group quite as disciplined and talented as Open Road. I will really miss it.”

Senior Andrew Findley, Coffeyville, is looking forward to the upcoming concert, especially the opportunity to perform “Low Down the Chariot” one more time.

“We wail on that song, and it’s acceptable because [the song] calls for a little more emotion that we would usually use,” he says.

However, the concert is bittersweet for Findley, who says he will miss “[the] friends, and singing with a group of talented musicians – plus Dan Graber.”

As for the future of the group, “Open Road chooses new members every year,” Ortman notes. “As long as the guys in the group have a passion to sing, I think the group will keep on.”

Open Road members include Findley, Graber and Ortman along with juniors Austin McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton, Gregory Shelly, Lenexa, Kyle Unruh, Goessel, and Nate Yoder, Kalona, Iowa, and sophomore Joshua Powell, Basehor.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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