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District Chorus festival needs more support from community

By Staff | Jan 22, 2013

Hughesville High School Chorus Director, Brian Barckley and students (left to right) Amanda MacTarnaghan, Josh McGee, and Lycia Getgen are getting ready for the District 8 PMEA Chorus Festival which Hughesville will be hosting this year on Feb. 9 at the Community Arts Center.

HUGHESVILLE – It has been 22 years since Hughesville High School Spartan Chorus hosted the Pennsylvania Music Education Association Festival, and chorus director Brian Barckley announced that it was time to do it again. He said he wanted to take on the challenge because it is important to the district and it was now time to help out again as host. The district was a co-host in 1996 with Joy Barto, but it was in 1991 under the direction of Joanne Cromley that the high school last sponsored the annual festival.

There will be 174 students participating this year from 39 different schools. Barckley who has taught elementary band for the last 18 years with the school district took over as chorus director at the high school when Joy Barto retired last year. As part of his new position Barckley felt that hosting the festival will generate more interest in choral music. “It was now our turn to help out,” he said. Each year 40 schools rotate. Once he got approval from the administration, Barckley said he started planning for the event last May. “This would not be possible without support from the ELSD administration,” he added. “Mr. Pawlik and Mr. Lorson have been very enthusiastic about hosting this festival.”

Housing the students who are not from the area is the biggest challenge. 139 students needed a place to sleep, and so far, all but 30 have been placed thanks to a letter that went home with every high school student. Barckley said that he can still use some places if anyone in the community is available to help out for the nights of Feb. 7 and 8. In return, family hosts will receive a free ticket to the concert which will be performed at the Community Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. Hosts will only need to provide breakfast and transportation to the high school each morning.

District 8 serves Bradford, Snyder, Lycoming, Columbia, Union, Montour, Northumberland, Sullivan and Tioga Counties. Besides housing and transportation Barckley’s duties include collecting registration fees, hiring caters for the meals, administering the forms, working with budgets and providing support to the other schools. A banquet is scheduled at Pine Street United Methodist Church in Williamsport on Friday evening for the students, volunteers and choir directors. Barckley is also planning a cabaret show for them followed by a short dance at the Community Arts Center.

He also hired guest conductor Anthony T. Leach, professor of music education at the Pennsylvania State University to direct the chorus. “Leach was my first choice. He is well known and comes well recommended,” said Barckley. Leach also holds a Ph.D in music education and served as Penn State Laureate Professor in the arts. He was published in General Music Today and is a member of The American Choral Directors Association and the National Association for Music Education.

Tickets can be acquired in advance for the chorus fest on Feb. 9 or at the door. Student auditions were held in October at Williamsport Area High School. Judges were choral directors from other schools within the PMEA District 8 region, Students Amanda MacTarnaghan, Josh McGee, and Lydia Getgen made it from Hughesville High School and have been rehearsing two to three times a week with Mr. Barckley using excerpts from the music that will be in the show. “It was a lot of work,” said Amanda MacTarnaghan. “We had to sing acapella and wait for our starting note. I was really nervous.” Lydia Getgen said she was very much surprised that she made it because several auditioned. “We practiced a lot here at the high school,” said Josh McGee. Every student who participates will receive a special medal with the Spartan school colors. “We are very excited about performing on stage,” Getgen said. Other local participating students are Hannah Umstead from Montgomery High School and Rebecca Kriner and Olivia Renkel from Muncy High School. To audition all had to sing Conti’s version of “Ave Maria.” Some of the songs that they will be performing are “America the Beautiful” (opening), “Shenandoah”, and “Oh! What a Beautiful City!”

All of the schools help each other out according to Barckley. For example Loyalsock loans the risers needed for the stage, Muncy donates the conductor’s podium. “All of the schools network together and share the responsibility. We collaborate to put this event on,” added Barckley. “And it gives our school a sense of pride to do this.”

To volunteer for housing or help out at the chorus festival contact Mr. Brian Barckley at bbarckley@elsd.org or call 570-5863.