It doesn’t take much to get Joni Nelson to break into song.
Say the words “Pie Day” and she’s off, warbling the Braham Pie Day ballad “The Rhubarb of My Eye,” written in 1991 by Larry Long with help from a few talented Braham residents and a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission. The song is performed every year by the Pie-Alluia Chorus, a group that has been singing at the annual celebration since its inception.
Nelson has been a part of the group as either singer or director for eight or nine years. So far this year, eight vocalists and a guitarist have signed on to lend their talents for the ensemble that will perform first at Elmhurst Commons at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 5, for “those residents who can’t make it down to Pie Day,” Nelson said. The singers will then croon a few tunes at 12:30 p.m. at the performing arts stage.
Most of the music performed by the Pie-Allulia Chorus are parodies of popular songs, Nelson said. An arrangement of “The Hallelujah Chorus,” from Handel’s “Messiah” — the music for which the chorus is named — is included in the groups repertoire.
“Pie-Allulia! Pie-Allulia!” Nelson intoned in her melodic, mezzo-soprano voice.
She credits Cindy Frost with writing the lyrics to most of the parodies, including a version of “Amazing Grace.” Other songs include a take-off on “If I Only Had a Brain,” from the film musical “The Wizard of Oz,” and a spoof on Barry Manilow’s 1979 hit “I Write the Songs.”
“When I eat pie, I eat the whole darn thing,” sang Nelson, using the melody of the popular tune.
Audience members at the choir’s performances are always invited to sing along. This is made easier by the musicians because, Nelson said, “We pass out the words so everyone can join in.”
Nelson, who works as a piano teacher in her home studio and in music ministry at two churches, encourages anyone with any measure of vocal talent to join the chorus. Practice will be at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4, at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Braham.
“It’s open to people to come in and join the group,” Nelson said. “And you know what we do? We have a lot of fun.”