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Chorus concert 'what heaven must sound like'

January 17, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Pinned to Brittany Lackey's robe were pins of bronze and silver.

Each pin stood for a choral festival in which the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) invited her, a soprano, to perform.

As Lackey waited for the concert to begin, she said of all of the festivals she has sung in so far, this one stood out near the top.

Each of the 225 students selected from eight south-central Pennsylvania counties by PMEA to sing in the concert Saturday at the Waynesboro Area Senior High School Performing Arts Center appeared to share in Lackey's excitement as they waited for the concert to begin.

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Some jumped around to warm up their muscles and expel pent-up energy. Others polished off bottles of water to hydrate their vocal chords. And many took brief moments to close their eyes and just listen.

"I hope you know just how wonderful of an experience it is to work with such a great conductor," Eric Griffith, choral director of Waynesboro Area Senior High School, said to the students.

PMEA welcomed one of the most sought-after choral conductors, Eph Ehly, to lead the festival and work with students in two days of rehearsal.

Griffith said Ehly no longer agrees to conduct for high school choral festivals, but he agreed to take time away from his grandchildren for this one.

Working with a skilled director like Ehly, the students sang with angelic intonation, Griffith said, adding that the students brought him to tears during rehearsal Friday.

"I wish you could be on the other side of this," he said to the students. "When you sang 'Thou Gracious God (Whose Mercy Leads'), I thought, 'This is what heaven must sound like.'"

Lackey, who is a senior at Greencastle-Antrim Senior High School, said she is no stranger to the tingles that run up and down the spine when skilled voices join in harmony.

"I love to listen to all of us singing as one in harmony," she said. "This has to be one of my top five high school experiences."

Daniel Walsh, a bass and senior at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, agreed.

"I am so excited," he said. "I love all of the music we are singing."

Unlike the music typically performed by high school choral groups, Lackey said the repertoire of the district festival is more advanced and challenging.

Griffith said half of the students performing Saturday were invited to advance to the PMEA Region 5 Choral festival in Kutztown, Pa., from Feb. 19 to 21.

Among those advancing were Lackey and D.J. Barkdoll of Waynesboro.

The 2009 festival was the first District Chorus hosted by Waynesboro in 29 years and Griffith said it was an honor for him and the Waynesboro students in the festival to welcome everyone to the new performing arts center.

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