WCCO concert to honor famous choral icon

The Williamsport Chamber Choir and Orchestra will aid in boosting folks’ holiday spirits with Friday’s 7:30 p.m. concert at the Williamsport Area High School auditorium, 2990 W. Fourth St.

Presenting “The Music of Fred Waring,” the WCCO will jump back in time as they perform classic tunes, including holiday favorites like “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells” and many more as they channel a famous chorist from the early 20th century – the “man who taught America how to sing.”

“This is a great concert for those who wish to enjoy choral music of the 1920s to 1960s and certainly holiday favorites. The choir will be performing with an orchestra of 31 musicians playing the same arrangements that Fred Waring performed during this 50-year period on stage, screen and TV,” said Kent Weaver, director of the WCCO.

Fred Waring, whom the concert is honoring, was born in Tyrone in 1900. He studied at Penn State University, making his way to the airwaves and eventually the screen. Waring’s Pennsylvanians, a choral group started in 1918 at Penn State University by Fred Waring and his brother, Tom, were among Victory Record’s best-selling bands from 1923 until 1932. Waring even had his own television shown from 1948 to 1954 called “The Fred Waring Show” on CBS Television.

“I began formulating this concert years ago before I was the director of the Williamsport Chamber Choir and Orchestra, when I first heard of the Waring archives were held at Penn State University,” Weaver said.

“I had always heard of Fred Waring and his importance in popularizing choral music in the United States, but it wasn’t until I began to research [Waring] that I really discovered why he truly was so important,” he said.

Waring was active until his death in 1984, helping popularize the choral field. That alone is enough to honor through a concert, but the fact that Waring is a Pennsylvania native makes it all the more special.

A lot of effort went into the preparation of the concert, since Waring covered such a wide variety of platforms.

“Probably the biggest challenge was [that] I chose arrangements from various time periods and arrangements written for different forces; for example, some of these arrangements were written for his touring ensemble where he would use a smaller orchestra, some were from his ‘Roxy Concerts’ where they performed for many weeks in the Roxy Theater on Broadway in New York City, where he had a very large orchestra, and some of the arrangements were written for his TV specials where he used a medium-sized orchestra,” Weaver said.

With all of the different aspects, Weaver had to be sure to have many instrumentalists to cover the various parts.

“The choir is very well prepared and will do an outstanding job,” he said.

The audience can expect to sing along as they will be familiar with all of the tunes, Weaver noted.

“These are some of the most recognizable songs in the ‘American Songbook,’ he said. Songs include those written by Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Henry Mancini, Rogers and Hammerstein, Meridith Wilson and Les Brown.

WCCO’s next performance, called Bach, Brahms and the Boys, will be on April 4 and will include music of J.S. Bach and his “Cantata No. 150,” Benjamin Britton’s “Rejoice in the Lamb,” Johannes Brahms’ choral quartets and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ folksongs.

Tickets for “The Music of Fred Waring” are available at the door; all students K-12 with an adult are free.

To learn more about the WCCO, visit williamsportchamber choirandorchestra.word or call 570-974-1501.