Touring university chamber singers honor York teacher

The Clarion University Chamber Singers will be honoring Wayne Howell with a free concert Friday, April 13, at his home church, Yorkshire United Methodist Church in Springettsbury Township.

The chamber singers do a benefit every fall, said group leader Stephen Johnson, and Howell, his former high school choral teacher, had seen on social media that there would be a benefit for his former student Barbie Barnes, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Clarion University Chamber Singers are going on tour beginning April 12, 2018. The group's goal is to sing in all 67 counties of Pennsylvania.

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Howell wanted to go, but because he'd had a stroke, he could not drive, and the benefit was about four hours away in Shippenville, Clarion County.

When Johnson found out, he decided to bring the chamber singers to Howell.

"He was a fabulous teacher," Johnson said, adding that Howell was remembered fondly by students at their last high school reunion, where his choral trips were "pretty much what we all talked about."

The concert also will be a homecoming for York-area chamber singer Tori Heckert, who will be singing a solo.

Traveling singers: The Clarion University Chamber Singers leave Thursday, April 12, for a nine-stop tour.

In addition to the April 13 concert, the singers also will perform for Central York High School and Dover Area High School that morning, with a 12:15 p.m. concert at the Gettysburg National Battlefield visitors' center the next day.

When Johnson took over as faculty leader of the group of 18- to 22-year-old student choral singers four years ago, it became more of a traveling group, he said.

"We're on a mission to sing in all 67 counties of Pennsylvania," he said, adding that by the end of this tour, they'll have sung in 23.

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But the group also travels outside Pennsylvania — in the summer of 2016, they took third place at an international choral competition in Wales.

Modern music: Johnson also expanded the group's repertoire to include all styles of music, such as jazz, pop, spirituals, folk and traditional classical.

At the Yorkshire UMC concert, the singers will open with a song based on a prayer for peace written before World War I called "Let My Love Be Heard," followed by John Lennon's "Imagine."

Johnson said the first song was sung at the memorial service for the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, and the group is singing the pair of songs in honor of people who have lost their lives through terrorism or violence in schools.

The singers also will add fun to their show with an arrangement of "Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars and "My Shot" from the musical "Hamilton."

The concert will be at 7 p.m. Friday, April 13, at Yorkshire United Methodist Church, 125 Edgewood Road in Springettsbury Township.