Williamsport Civic Chorus shares the stage with students of Uptown Music Collective

It will be the first collaboration for two well-known musical establishments when “Voices Rising” is presented May 27 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St. The 7:30 p.m. show merges the talents of students of Uptown Music Collective with the heavy vocal sound of the Williamsport Civic Chorus.

The concert will feature students performing “vocal-heavy” rock classics by groups like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Queen, U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

These musical pioneers often recorded music with large ensembles, a tradition that still has a place in modern music, thanks to artists like Foreigner, David Bowie and Michael Jackson.

When both organizations break new ground with the performance, they will be paying tribute to this tradition.

The Williamsport Civic Chorus has gathered together for more than 70 years for the purpose of perpetuating the richness and diversity of choral music for the enjoyment and edification of audiences and singers, alike.

The organization collaborated last year with the Turning Pointe School of Dance to perform Karl Jenkins’ “Requiem.”

For 17 years, the Uptown Music Collective has become one of the most highly respected, nonprofit educational organizations.

The school is dedicated to providing a well-rounded education to students of all ages, with a focus on those 10 through 18 years old.

The school has become known for its positive peer group, inspiring teachers and a diverse multitude of performance opportunities.

It was WCC Director Michael Connor who approached UMC Executive Director Dave Brumbaugh with the idea of doing a collaborative concert featuring rock songs with big vocal choruses and/or massed vocal backing parts.

“I have been interested and amazed by the work of the Uptown students and faculty for some time,” Connor said. “Many of the teachers there are friends of mine. Seeing the work that the students there do and wanting to do something different with the Civic Chorus really sparked me to approach Dave Brumbaugh about doing a collaboration.”

The pair agreed to join the two groups, assigning students with the role of lead vocalists and rock band parts, while the WCC would provide the vocal heaviness.

“We frequently seek collaboration and partnership with other arts organizations,” Brumbaugh said. “In the past, we have performed with the Williamsport Symphony Youth Orchestra, Lycoming College Community Orchestra, Williamsport High School Orchestra, and several other organizations. All in an effort to allow the musical village to raise our young musicians.”

Connor said he chose the music based on his own childhood — things that he listened to and enjoyed — focusing on pieces that depended heavily on choirs. The chorus has weekly rehearsals and has been chipping away at the music for the past several months.

Those familiar with the UMC’s performances know that preparation is something the organization takes seriously. But this performance, Brumbaugh added, is a little different.

“Our Special Performance Group 1 is the group that most people are used to seeing on the big stage at the Community Arts Center,” he said. “For this performance, however, we gave most of our mainline performers a break, in favor of bringing up some of our younger talent, many of whom will be performing for the first time under the CAC’s bright lights.”

Due to the inexperience of these students and in an effort to make their first experience as good as it can be, Brumbaugh said they have been working on the music longer than normal and have added extra dress rehearsals to increase the overall preparedness and the educational value for these future key performers.

While the average age for “Voices Rising” student performers is 13 to 14, Brumbaugh said he loves the idea of interaction between “older” music lovers and musicians with his young students. According to Connor, the chorus includes those from college age to seniors, with an average age of individuals in their 50s.

“It’s a connection between the generations,” he said. “Music is a great common language that transcends economic and cultural divides. In the end, our almost universal love of it shows how we really aren’t that much different from one another.”

Tickets are available at the Community Arts Center Box Office, Alabaster Coffee, K&S Music, the Uptown Music Collective, Robert M. Sides, Otto Book Store and through the Williamsport Civic Chorus.

For more information, visit uptownmusic.org or call 329-0888.

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