St. Paul, Minn. —
Mindy Ratner didn't expect to be leading a choir at the Minnesota State Fair. "But I couldn't say no!" she laughs. "When Mike Pengra, who's producing all these Fair programs, asked me if I thought the choir would like to sing at the Fair, I could hardly say no. I put the word out and people wrote back right away: 'I'm in!', 'Sure, I'd love to do it!' We were in."
The MPR Choir is a volunteer choir made up of Minnesota Public Radio employees. "They're all colleagues from a variety of departments," explains Ratner, who is the director of the group. "The members are not just from Classical but from also from MPR News and from marketing, development … we have technology people singing and everything from part-timers to senior management. So I'm really thrilled about that."
Although Ratner is the group's founder, she's not its first conductor. That credit, Ratner says, goes to Sam Kjellberg, a former MPR employee who moved to Boston to pursue a master's degree in choral conducting. After Kjellberg left, Ratner then stepped up to the podium. "I was not going to let this chorus cease to be just because he wasn't around," she says. "And I apologized to everybody and waved my arms about for the very first time and a wonderful sound came out and it was a thrilling experience."
Ratner has since led the MPR Choir at internal events, such as the annual employee party or at spontaneous concerts in the lobby of the Minnesota Public Radio. Wednesday's performance at the MPR booth at the Minnesota State Fair marks the first time the choir will perform for the general public. Strictly speaking, it's a debut, but Ratner keeps it in perspective. "Look, this ensemble exists for us to have fun singing; it's purely for our own enjoyment," she says, "and I had never anticipated that we'd have an occasion like this, so I hope that we'll be up to the task."
As for the MPR Choir's repertoire, Ratner is coy. "I don't want to give away too much," she chuckles, "but there will be a certain amount of audience participation."
The MPR Choir performs on Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 2 p.m., at the MPR booth near the corner of Judson and Nelson at the Minnesota State Fair. Classical MPR's Mindy Ratner hosts and leads the performance.