Tags Posts tagged with "Katherine Hartner"

Katherine Hartner

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Photo Courtesy of midwestliving.com

Katherine Hartner
CONTRIBUTOR

On March 18 around 900 people attended Fontenelle Forest’s Fairy Faire, a program specifically aimed at families with young children.

Families turned out to build fairy houses, some so small and well-camouflaged as to be nearly invisible, others large and ornate buildings worthy of being called mansions.

Jamie Vann, the Teen Naturalist volunteer coordinator who managed the Faire, said that Lacey Pucinski, a staff member at Fontenelle Forest, had heard of Fairy Faires and thought it would be a good way to get kids interested in the STEM fields. Vann said that around 550 people had pre-registered for the Faire, but that more people actually showed up, giving an estimate that was supported by the staffers at the front desk of around 900 people.

Elizabeth Chalen, Fontenelle Forest’s Volunteer coordinator, gave some insights on what goes into planning for an event like this.

“The hardest part is preparing all the materials and making sure that there’s enough of everything,” Chalen said, adding that there are always people who just turn up, making it difficult to prepare.

“We actually ran out of coconut oil about halfway through,” Vann said, laughing. “We didn’t expect the popcorn machine to take so much.”

“My favorite thing is seeing the people, what they’ve done and how creative they are, just having a good time,” Vann said. “Sometimes it’s just stuff shoved everywhere, and sometimes it’s these big beautiful houses. Whatever kids want to do.”

“I enjoy seeing the families out in the forest building fairy houses together, spending time together,” Chalen said.

“Any way we can, we try to incorporate learning into activities,” Chalen said. “With the tokens, they’re learning math. You can’t just buy everything in the store.”

The attraction isn’t just for kids, however. Vann mentioned that a pair of adults registered as well, and parents get very involved.

The first Fontenelle Forest Fairy Faire was held in 2010.

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Photo Courtesy of theatlantic.com
Photo Courtesy of theatlantic.com

Katherine Hartner
CONTRIBUTOR

If the presidential election had not been so dramatic, the death penalty controversy would certainly have been a major point of contention for voters in Nebraska this November. As it was, the elections pulled attention away from the death penalty.

The death penalty is an issue with wide-reaching connotations; the answer is not as simple as “yes” or “no.” The question of the death penalty is actually a broad sweep of questions masquerading as a single question. For instance, is the death penalty relevant any more, since no one has been actually executed in Nebraska for nearly 20 years? Is it morally sound, given the possibility of executing an innocent person? Does it work as deterrent? Should this even be an option, given potential for abuse? Should the government have the right to execute a convicted person?

In a letter to the editor printed in the Omaha World-Herald a few weeks ago, the author (a police officer) wrote that he supported the death penalty at one point, but no longer does, citing facts such as the lack of convictions, the possibility of innocent people being convicted and executed and that when people commit crimes they think they won’t be caught, so the death penalty is not a deterrent at all.

For many people, the death penalty controversy takes on religious overtones. The verse Romans 12:19: “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord”—is quoted frequently and used as a supporting argument on both sides. Even within denominations, there is a disparity of belief regarding the death penalty. Popes John Paul II and Francis have both spoken out against the death penalty, but some Christian denominations support it. There seems to be no broad consensus across all faiths.

However, the real problem was not that one side was right and the other was wrong, or even the way religion skewed opinion on the death penalty. The real problem this November was that we weren’t discussing those questions. True, the death penalty was discussed— but it wasn’t discussed enough. The only way to reach a sensible decision is to discuss pros and cons, and the presidential elections seemed to detract from the issue of the death penalty. We were so focused on Clinton versus Trump we ignored important issues right in our own backyard.

One of the saddest things about the internet and even the news media is that widely-covered stories don’t get read as much as equally important but less prestigious ones do. There is a wealth of information at our fingertips, and rather than researching the issues and deciding for ourselves, we fall back on what the majority seems to be thinking—or thinking about.

Perhaps it was predictable for the death penalty to be reinstated in Nebraska, but I would have expected, certainly in Omaha, if not elsewhere in the state, that it would be discussed more.

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Photo Courtesy of voicesofomaha.org
Photo Courtesy of voicesofomaha.org

Katherine Hartner
CONTRIBUTOR

On Nov. 20, the Voices of Omaha performed George Friedrich Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” as their gift to the Omaha community. The free performance is a 48-year tradition opening the Christmas season. Many have attended with their families for years, but for one family, performing in the choir has become their tradition.

The Albers family of Glenwood, Iowa, has performed with the Voices of Omaha for the past three years with this year marking their fourth time performing Handel’s “Messiah.”

According to William Albers, 16, the Albers became involved in the annual performance after Edward Hurd, the Voices of Omaha’s artistic director, visited the Omaha Academy Choir, which William and his sister Josephine (14) sang with at the time.

The Albers became involved and a family tradition was born. As veteran performers for the Voices of Omaha, the Albers have learned what a typical practice schedule leading up to the performance looks like.

The singers prepare for the performance in five two-hour Sunday practices with a piano instead of a full orchestra.

“Practicing with just the piano makes it easier,” William Albers said.

Josephine Albers added that there aren’t as many instruments playing, so it’s less likely to be distracting.

“The first year was the most difficult because the music was unfamiliar,” William Albers said, “but it’s gotten easier every year since.”

At a typical practice, the performers start at the beginning or pick up where they left off, Josephine Albers said.

There are also additional optional practices for individual voices—sopranos, altos, tenors and bases—before and after each practice.

Nearly halfway through a practice, the singers take a break,and Hurd gives a presentation on Handel’s life or the history of the oratorio.

Connie Albers, 42, remembers one particular story fondly— the story of the button that saved Handel’s life.

Josephine Albers retold the story of how Handel once took over for a fellow musician on the harpsichord while the other man was acting a part.

When the musician and actor came back, however, Handel refused to let him take over again. After the performance was over, the actor challenged Handel to a duel and successfully stabbed Handel, but his rapier caught on a button, saving the composer’s life.

“After that, they became best friends,” William Albers said.

The Voices of Omaha also offers incentives to teenagers and military members who want to perform the Messiah.

Teenagers and military can get a free copy of the score if they need it, and teenagers can get a rental for a free tuxedo or dress to wear during performance, according to William Albers.

Josephine Albers said her favorite thing about performing with the Voices of Omaha is “everything!”

She said she enjoys working with Hurd, who uses humor to help keep rehearsals running smoothly.

“Ed was very impressed that I was reading War and Peace.” Connie Albers said. “Last year, he was directing us, and his music stand kept going down.” Rather than staying at the correct height, it was sliding closed. Connie pantomimed following the music as the stand collapsed, laughing.

The Albers encourage others to participate in the annual performance.

“They’re always looking for more people to perform with them,” William Albers said, “particularly tenors and basses.”

All the Albers agreed that they’d certainly continue performing with the Voices of Omaha for years to come.

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