When she was a child, Jan Mitchell sang in the Hiway 95 Choir while her father Eric Fischer served as director.
This year, Mrs. Mitchell celebrates having directed the choir herself for three decades.
The Hiway 95 Choir was formed by residents who lived in and between the towns along Highway 95 – Tensed, Worley, Fairfield and Plummer.
Mrs. Mitchell's father directed the choir for around 12 to 14 years before it disbanded for a couple years. Then, after having her second child, Mrs. Mitchell stepped up to the plate to direct it and bring it back to the communities.
A love for singing it what drew her back to it and is what keeps many of the members coming back each year as well. Some of sang as part of the choir for as long as Mrs. Mitchell has directed it. One of those is Peggy Blackburn. For others, like Don Lewis this is his second year.
The number of people in the choir throughout the years has usually stayed consistent around 20 to 25 members.
"There's really an amazing amount of talent," Mrs. Blackburn said. "It's enjoyable and we have a lot of fun."
"I've sung in a lot of choirs and this one is remarkable," Mr. Lewis said. "I listened one year and then got involved last year."
Mrs. Mitchell said the choir has had multiple generations of family members sing in it and has been something a entire family can get involved in. For example, she’s had her husband sing and do narration as well has her own children sing and run the sound booth. Mrs. Blackburn’s daughter and granddaughter both sing in the choir, Tracy and Kate Dole.
“I’ve had members as young as 11 and up into their 80s sing in the choir,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “There’s always a span of ages which is neat. One of our honorary members is Addie Wetter, who is 88 years old. She may not perform but will come and practice with us still.”
Every year, Mrs. Mitchell carefully selects a piece and then puts it out to the members to learn it.
"Two years ago I picked a cantata that was difficult and I showed them they could do it," she said. "We are blessed with a lot of talent each year."
Both choir members and their director were quick to point out that it is a team effort. Mrs. Mitchell said in order for individuals to be a part of the choir they must commit to making practices once a week from the start of October through December.
"This wouldn't work without them being faithful," Mrs. Mitchell said. "They've got to attend practices."
She also gives kudos to those who run the sound booth, which is an integral part of each performance. This year, her children Jedidiah Mitchell and Nolan Mitchell were “roped in” to help out with this important duty.
However, choir members are quick to point out that without Mrs. Mitchell's direction, the choir would not be what it is today.
"She's very gifted as a director," Tracy Dole said. "She's very good about pulling talents out."
"People come in and they aren't sure they can or are not sure of their capability and she helps them become confident," Mrs. Blackburn said.
One of the main goals of the choir is to also spread the gospel message: that Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby to save mankind from its sins.
"The focus is to worship and to share that message," Mrs. Mitchell said.
This year's performances are scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 12 at Plummer Bible Church and 5 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Plummer Bible Church. The choir will be performing various numbers, including solos, from the following cantatas: Christmas is Coming; Fantasia Noel; Is He Worthy; and an Old Fashioned Christmas, which was the first cantata Mrs. Mitchell directed at the start of her tenure.
Mrs. Mitchell said the community always comes out to support those who sing and those who plan to attend are encouraged to arrive early as it is usually a “packed house.”
“We will be showing a slideshow to celebrate the 30 years,” she added.