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Church celebrates with outdoor concert

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 10:15 a.m.

The lawn at St. James Lutheran Church will be alive with song at 1 p.m. June 29 as the church welcomes The Urban Impact Singers to perform for the community.

The group is based in Pittsburgh's North Side, and is comprised of six teenage youths, ages 16 through 19, and two adult leaders. This is the first time the group will be performing for a Ligonier audience.

Denise Wasemann, who serves as the committee planning chair for St. James, said that the idea to invite the performers arose from committee member Miriam Davies' suggestion after she discovered the group through online research.

“Our goal with this event is to reach out to the community,” Wasemann said. “We knew we wanted to do a concert, but we thought ‘OK, where do we get the talent for this?'”

That talent was discovered in the work of the Urban Impact Singers.

The Urban Impact program strives to help students learn and grow together, while building leadership and responsibility. It has been in operation for four years.

Matthew Mason and Lorenze Jefferson work as the group's adult leaders, singing and performing with the teens.

“We want to showcase the good things that are happening with our youth,” Mason explained. “Youth is very important; we want to offer an encouraging environment and model good behavior. This program feeds into the kids in so many ways.”

Kelly Speicher, who works with the program as a performing arts assistant, commended the young entertainers for the work that they put into their productions.

“It's an intense group,” Speicher stated. “They practice four times a week with performances on the weekend. They spend a lot of their time.”

The singers have previously taken their entertaining abilities on the road, singing for homeless shelters in the city and in eastern parts of Pennsylvania. Last year, the group performed 38 concerts for a total of 36,000 people. This summer, they are taking their talent on a 14-day tour through California.

“This group gives (the youths) the opportunity to see places they may not have had the chance to see,” Speicher said.

Mason added, “We put a lot into these young people and expect a lot from them. It's about giving back to the community and exposing them to different kinds of people.”

The performance will run for 45 minutes and ice cream will be served after. Church committee members welcome all to attend and remain optimistic and enthusiastic about the event.

“Regardless of how big the turn-out, we'll learn and we can build on that,” Wasemann assured. “It will be a good time.”

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.