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Iowa Arts Showcase: Oakdale Community Choir

Rob Dillard

For this Iowa Arts Showcase, we’re featuring a story by Rob Dillard showcasing the work of the Oakdale Community Choir. But the choir is not made up of your average community choir members. It is comprised entirely of inmates in the medium security Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville.

The choir will be contributing to a recording of “The Prisoner’s Chorus” for the Heartbeat Opera in New York City’s production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio.” The opera tells the tale of a woman who goes undercover to infiltrate a prison where she believes her husband is wrongfully incarcerated. The Heartbeat Opera’s co-artistic director, Ethan Heard, went looking for singing inmates across the country and was lead to Oakdale. Mary Cohen, the choir’s director, agreed to have the group contribute to the recording.

Cohen leads the Oakdale Community Choir in presenting two performances every year. The audience is mostly comprised of family and friends, but Cohen seeks to invite the survivors of crimes, as well.

Jacqueline Halbloom is a Sr. Music Producer and Classical Music Host