2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the migration of 21,000 Russian Mennonites from the Soviet Union to Canada, and over the course of July during the Memories of Migration train tour reenacting that trek, special events are being planned in every province it travels through.

The train arrives in Winnipeg today (July 13th), and Saturday night at the Centennial Concert Hall a sold out concert is set to hit the stage Singing Our Journey: Sangerfest 2023.  The evening will be a traditional Mennonite songfest, featuring choirs and soloists presenting songs from the church choir repertoire throughout the past 100 years. 

Darryl Neustataedter Barg, with Mennonite Church Manitoba, is one of the many people involved with the concert.

"I think it's always exciting when you get over 200 voices together to sing anything, but in this particular case, it will be a nice range of more traditional kinds of church music, some of it bigger works like a Schubert, but also medleys of traditional hymns that our people have loved for hundreds of years, actually," explained Neustataedter Barg. "We also have a youth choir and a children's choir, so they'll all come together in the grand finale that was specially commissioned. It's an arrangement of the traditional hymn Nun Danket Alle Gott. I think it's going to be fantastic."

There are a lot of familiar names that are will be part of the concert.

"Artistic Director Henry Engbrecht probably needs few introductions, but also we have soloist Victor Engbrecht, his son. Andrea Lett is a soprano soloist, and we have arrangements of pieces by Esther Weibe, and also a special commission that Michael Janzen did for us. Michael Jansen, who often works with Steve Bell... will be there to play."

Nustataedter Barg has been involved with a lot of concerts of this nature over the years, but this is truly a special one considering the Russlaender 100 anniversary it's recognizing.

"Absolutely the finale," he said when asked what he's most looking forward to Saturday night. "You know, I have to be careful not to choke up here, but it was a tough journey for our people, and we have, by and large, flourished in Canada, but that journey 100 years ago was very difficult. I know my grandparents have told some of the stories, and that opportunity to come to freedom was super significant, and so this final hymn Nun Danket Alle Gott was a significant hymn at that time for people to reflect on how thankful they were to God for everything, that they could get out, that they were still alive. When we sing that together, I think it's going to be incredibly moving."

And a special note from the concert organizers, because tickets were initially free to reserve, there’s a good chance some tickets initially reserved are now potentially not being used. If that’s the case with tickets you have reserved, please contact the Concert Hall via email help@centennialconcerthall.com . Let them know which tickets you have, so they can be made available to those who can attend Saturday night.

You can listen to Morning Show Co-Host Chris Sumner's conversation with Darryl Neustataedter Barg, below.