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Group lends voice for theater

March 24, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Towne Singers, a 27-member local choral group, will lend their voices to help celebrate the April reopening of Capitol Theatre as the downtown landmark celebrates its 70th anniversary.

For The Towne Singers, helping a good cause is just part of its act. The group has raised more than $12,000 for charitable causes over the years. In 1986 it raised $5,000 toward the renovation of the Statue of Liberty at a concert held at the Capitol Theatre, said Jane Butler, the group's founder and business manager.

Butler said the group performs about a dozen fund-raising concerts a year for area service, fraternal and political organizations and churches.

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The Towne Singers began when Butler and her husband Charles Butler moved to Franklin County from Chicago in 1970 and started the ensemble the same year. "We sang in a pop group in Chicago, but there was no group here. We looked for singers who liked our kind of music and organized The Towne Singers," she said.

The group started with eight members. Four of the eight including the Butlers, Lloyd Burkholder and Geri Johnson are still with the group. By the end of the first year it had 12 members. Today it has 27.

The group also sings to raise money for its own expenses, including concert clothes and expenses to send its members on two goodwill singing tours to Europe. The first tour was in 1990, the second in 1994. A third European tour, this time to the British Isles, is set for next year, Butler said.

Its repertoire includes music for religious and secular concerts. "Sometimes we mix in both," Johnson said.

The members practice religiously every Sunday evening, Butler said. "It's a very demanding practice schedule. That's why we're so good," Johnson said.

And theater officials hope the troupe's performances on April 25 and 26 is good enough to help raise $15,000.

Downtown Chambersburg Inc. bought the Capitol Theatre in September for $100,000 with money from a Wood Foundation grant. It needs another $250,000 to turn the theater into a major community arts and performance center for local artists. Renovations needed include new wiring and roof repairs plus additions to restrooms and dressing rooms.

The theater will continue to raise money with movies, big name performers, Broadway plays and concerts

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