Brenda Nissen of Lyons is one Heavenly Hen.
Each week, she gathers nine chicks just like her and encourages them to let their music fly. This group of musical hens leads worship services and can be heard around Northeast Nebraska in concert.
The Heavenly Hens is a triple trio that Nissen leads and accompanies. Formed in the fall of 2017, the group is made up of women from Allen, Beemer, Snyder, West Point and Wisner.
At the time Nissen initially gathered her chicks together, Nissen was a member of Faith Fellowship Parish, a tri-parish made up of churches from Beemer, Wisner and West Point. Nissen asked the church secretary for the names of female members who sing, with plans to present a one-time program. To her surprise, although none of them had met Nissen, they all responded with a resounding “Yes.”
Although the women have seen a change of three singers through the years, today they are derived from a variety of area churches. Singing soprano are Gloria Wellman, Lori Schutte and Ann Norgard. Second sopranos include Peg McAllister, Beverly Meyer and Nancy Nelson. Rounding out the melodies are altos Jean Schlickbernd, Marcia Summers and Kerri Bockelman.
At their first concert, they profess they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to pull their act together. But now they say they’re having far too much fun to quit.
Most of their music includes religious songs, although they’ll add a patriotic tune once in a while or a seasonal number. Nissen has the final say for musical selections because, after all, she’s the head hen. All of their concerts, Nissen said, spread the love of Jesus.
But spreading the word of God isn’t enough, she said. “We have to have action.”
Consequently, some of their concerts have gathered funds for organizations such as food pantries, schools, senior centers, nursing homes and museums. They’ve given programs at the Dixon and Cuming County fairs, led church services at various venues and sometimes — appropriately — in outdoor settings, such as West Point’s “Gospel on the Grass.”
On one occasion, the Heavenly Hens surprised the gathering with a flash mob performance.
Their concerts are interactive, often engaging the audience. Because of the energy the women expend, when they arrive home, they’re typically exhausted. In addition, the songs they’ve performed are going through their heads while they’re trying to sleep.
Their name, the Heavenly Hens, was hatched up on a day they were practicing their selections at the Nissen farm. Schlickbernd saw a black and white hen scratching in the dirt nearby and came up with the name for the group.
A number of old roosters have asked to sing along with the Hens, but the group is designed for chicks, they said.
Even so, Bill Drake of Beemer has sung with the women a few times, and they have invited him to become an honorary member.
The group has its own Facebook page and will be leading the worship service on Sunday, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. at the Wisner Riverside Park.