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The Bluebonnet Chorale wishes you a Merry Christmas!
Thursday, December 15, 2011 • Posted December 15, 2011

The Bluebonnet Chorale was formed in the fall of 1999 when a group of 16 women from Horseshoe Bay met at The Church at Horseshoe Bay to form a singing group. Long-time director Wenona Burks likes to tell the story that they started out just singing simple rounds. With the help of accompanist Helen Carpenter they soon progressed to three-part and then four-part music. Over the years, their library of choral literature—mainly consisting of popular American music and show tunes—has continued to expand and become more sophisticated.

The group has now grown to over 60 members—give or take a few now and then. Of the founding members, four are still singing with the group—Gerry Kirby, Anna Mae Kraus, Melissa Rowe and June Sargent—and there are a number of emeritae in the area who no longer participate actively but who continue to maintain an interest in the Chorale.

Both Wenona Burks and Helen Carpenter have retired after serving the group with seemingly tireless devotion for over 10 years. We miss them deeply, but we have great new leadership. Judy Ridley and Mary Williams share the director’s spot and keep us on our toes with their different styles. Linda Boatman, accompanist, joined us a year ago and has become a cherished member of our family. As Helen did, she plays for both the Bluebonnet Chorale and for the Highland Lakes Men’s Chorus. Kristine Robinson, who joined us this year, is a very able backup when Linda’s schedule is overwhelmed by commitments to both groups.

Our members now come from all over the Highland Lakes area: Llano, Kingsland, Sunrise Beach, Blue Lake, Deer Haven, Horseshoe Bay, Cottonwood Shores, Spicewood, Marble Falls, Meadowlakes, Granite Shoals, Shady Acres, Highland Haven, Burnet, Buchanan Dam, and Johnson City. That takes a lot of dedication—and carpooling—to meet for rehearsals every Monday afternoon from September to May.

The Christmas holidays are always the busiest season of the year for the group as it finds the Chorale singing at various events throughout the Highland Lakes area. I was not a charter member of the group, but I joined a month or two later, just in time for the holidays in 1999. Our first “gig” was at the home of Mike and Marilynn Campbell in Horseshoe Bay. Their exquisitely decorated house on Mountain Dew was on the Christmas Parade of Homes that year and the Bluebonnet Chorale gathered in the driveway to provide a little entertainment and extra atmosphere. That year we sang simple Christmas carols—no complicated arrangements, but heartfelt nonetheless.

We have covered a lot of Christmas music since then! There were 10 scheduled performances this year, and I remember one year when we sang at 13 different venues during the month of December. At some point we try to find the opportunity to end the year with a bit of celebration. This year we joined the Highland Lakes Men’s Chorus for a joint Christmas party and some postprandial caroling. Just give us the cue and we’re always ready to sing!

This year we have concluded our holiday performances with an informal version of an old favorite, a carol that is believed to have originated in sixteenth century England, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Here from some of our chorale members are some favorite Christmas treats and quick and easy recipes for this busy time of the year, along with our very best wishes to you and yours.

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Bettye Chambliss (soprano), originally from Mississippi, has lived in Sunrise Beach since 1991. The Chorale has sung at the Christmas party for the Women’s Auxiliary of the Sunrise Beach Volunteer Fire Department for several years and they have always proved to be an enthusiastic audience. Here’s an easy and delicious hors d’oeuvre recipe Bettye brought to the party this year.

BETTYE CHAMBLISS’ CHILI CHEESE LOG

1 pound Velveeta cheese

1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese

2 (4-ounce) cans of green chilies crackers or chips

Soften Velveeta cheese so that you can roll it out. Put the softened cheese between two layers of wax paper and start pressing it out with your hands or a rolling pin to flatten it into a rectangle.

Mix the cream cheese with the green chilies. Spread the mixture down the middle of the cheese roll. Use the wax paper to gently bring one side of the roll to the top of the cream cheese mixture and then fold the other side over. Once the Velveeta and the filling are in the shape of a log, place the log in the refrigerator for an hour or longer so it will hold its shape. Provide a knife for serving with crackers or chips.

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The Drapers make a double contribution to the musical scene. Ruth (soprano) has sung in the Bluebonnet Chorale for a number of years and serves as the treasurer. Her husband, Dick, is a member of the Highland Lakes Men’s Chorus. Here’s Ruth’s recipe for an easy hot cheese dip.

RUTH DRAPER’S PEPPER JELLY CHEESE DIP

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely grated

½ cup mayonnaise

3 green onions, chopped

6 Ritz crackers, crumbled

½ cup cooked and crumbled bacon

½ cup pepper jelly

crackers

Mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and chopped onions together and spread in a baking dish. Top with crumbled crackers. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until bubbly. Top with bacon and drizzle pepper jelly on top. Serve with crackers.

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Willetta House (soprano) is a Burnet resident who joined the group in 2007. Her recipe for a super simple fruit salad sounds perfect for the Christmas season.

WILLETTA HOUSE’S GRAPE SALAD

8 ounces cream cheese

8 ounces sour cream

¼ cup white sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla*

2 pounds each, green and red seedless grapes

1 cup pecans

Whip the cream cheese, sour cream, sugars and vanilla together. (*Yes, it calls for 1 tablespoon of vanilla.) Stir into grapes and pecans. Willetta notes that this can be made and refrigerated a day before serving.

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When I asked our members if they might be willing to contribute a recipe for this issue, I received several wonderful dessert recipes. It was hard to limit the choice to the space available, but the ones I’ve included share one thing—they are easy to prepare. Here’s a recipe for pumpkin pie from Janice Cleavinger (second soprano). Janice wrote that this family favorite has been handed down from generation to generation with love.

JANICE CLEAVINGER’S MOTHER’S PUMPKIN PIE WITH MOLASSES

1-1/2 cups canned or cooked pumpkin

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup white sugar

¼ teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons molasses

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup evaporated milk

1 unbaked 9-inch deep pie shell

Mix pumpkin, sugar, salt, slices and molasses. Add eggs and milk and mix thoroughly. Pour into unbaked shell. Bake in 425 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

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Caryl Calsyn (soprano) is a charter member of the Falls on the Colorado Museum and lives in the historic Christian-Matern home in Marble Falls, a lovely Victorian structure which she has painstakingly and creatively restored. She writes that this recipe is a “must do” at Christmas (and other times also).

CARYL CALYSYN’S CREME DE MENTHE BARS

1-1/4 cups butter

½ cup cocoa

4-1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup (scant) green creme de menthe

1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

For bottom layer: In microwave combine ½ cup of the butter and the cocoa. Heat and stir until well blended. Remove and add ½ cup powdered sugar, the egg and vanilla. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, mix well and press into the bottom of a 7-1/2 inch by 11 inch ungreased baking pan.

For middle layer: Melt another ½ cup butter. In small mixer bowl combine melted butter and the creme de menthe. At the low speed of the mixer beat in the remaining powdered sugar gradually, until smooth. Spread over chocolate layer. Chill one hour.

For top layer: In microwave combine the remaining ¼ cup butter and the chocolate chips. Stir until melted and smooth. Spread over the mint layer. Chill 1 to 2 hours. Score the top layer before hardening. Cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

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Mary Jacque Northup (alto) lives in Buchanan Dam. Fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish, Mary was a teacher and an education consultant before her retirement.

MARY JACQUE NORTHUP’S MOCHA NUT COOKIES

½ cup butter (1 stick)

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon instant coffee

½ tablespoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cocoa

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup ground nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Dissolve coffee in water, stir into butter mixture with vanilla. Sift cocoa, flour and salt together, then mix into butter mixture. Beat until smooth. Blend in nuts. Shape into 1-inch balls. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool, then roll in powdered sugar. Store in covered container.

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The last recipe is from Sally Stemac (alto, second soprano, soprano—whatever you need). Sally has served faithfully as the Chorale’s wardrobe mistress, ordering our shirts and making sure we have been uniformly outfitted for our performances. Sally is an avid golfer and she has also been very active in the Hill Country Community Theatre on stage, back stage and in the front of the house. (Look for Sally and fellow chorale member Judy Ridley in the next production!)

SALLY STEMAC’S CHOCOLATE CHERRY CAKE

1 box of Devil’s Food or Triple Fudge/Chocolate Cake mix

2 large eggs, lightly beaten*

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 can cherry pie filling

1 tub of fudge or dark chocolate cake icing

¼ cup to ½ cup almond slices for garnish (optional)

*Sally’s note: Many cake mixes call for 3 eggs these days; however, 2 large eggs are sufficient.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour 9"x13" cake pan. Add eggs and almond extract to cake mix and stir to blend (hand mix). Gently fold in cherry pie filling. Pour into cake pan (mixture will be lumpy). Do not add any additional liquid as the pie filling and eggs provide all the liquid necessary. Bake according to the timetable on the cake mix box. Cool and ice the cake. Garnish with almond slices if desired.

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