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Sixth-grade chorus concert slated for Southmoreland Senior High

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Paul Paterra | The Independent-Observer
Southmoreland High School will host Westmoreland County Music Educators Association's annual Sixth-Grade County Chorus concert. Among those who will participate are, from left: Meghan Whytsell, elementary general music teacher and chorus director; Carissa Lewis, Sarah DuBrul, Abby Whitlatch, Madison Garlowich, Marissa Hribal and Shelbie Baker. Missing from the picture are Abby Fullem and Annalisa Romero.

Some of the finest singing voices in Westmoreland County will be heard in harmony April 4 at Southmoreland Senior High School.

About 125 young singers will take to the stage for nine songs at the annual Sixth Grade County Chorus, presented by the Westmoreland County Music Educators Association.

“Each year, a different director takes turns volunteering to have their school host their event,” said Meghan Whytsell, elementary general music teacher and chorus director. “Music teachers who are members of the association are able to bring a certain percentage of their chorus.”

Whytsell said 27 county schools will be sending representatives to perform under the direction of Thomas Octave, an assistant professor of music at St. Vincent College and director of the Westmoreland Choral Society. He will be accompanied by Nancy Finke Sheehan, director of the Westmoreland Children's Chorus.

Students received the music to be performed that night in January, but the first time they will be together is the day of the festival. After a full day of practice, there is a concert 7 p.m. that is open for anyone to attend. The cost is $3 for adults and $2 for children of school age.

“They practice with (the guest conductor) all day, after they've practiced on their own for a couple months,” Whytsell said. “All these kids come together from different schools to perform the concert in the evening. (Octave) is really good with kids. He's done this in the past.”

All the students who will be involved in the chorus will arrive at the high school at about 8:30 a.m. with their directors.

The music is a little more challenging than what they would do in their choruses at school. They work with these other children all day to put all the parts together,” Whytsell said. “They have never sung together before. It's so cool. I don't know how it works, (but) it always comes together”

What may be extremely “challenging” is the fact two songs will be done in foreign languages one in Spanish and one in Swahili.

“It's a real rhythmic piece,” Whytsell said of the song in Swahili. “There's going to be congas and maracas. It has all the percussion.”

There will be eight Southmoreland students participating in the concert: Carissa Lewis, Sarah DuBrul, Abby Whitlatch, Madison Garlowich, Marissa Hribal, Shelbie Baker, Abby Fullem and Annalisa Romero.

Baker admits she “can't wait” for the experience.

“It lets us expand our talents and benefits our school,” she said. “It's very interesting. I've been singing since I was little. I've been doing a lot of plays and solos in my church.”

Garlowich is looking forward to singing with new people.

“When you go with a lot more people, it sounds really, really good,” she said.

Whitlatch has had the dream of a singing career since her younger days.

“It's fantastic experience,” Whitlatch said about being chosen for the concert. “It will look good on our resume. It's just a great experience to benefit our school and show everybody what we can do with our voices.”

They were chosen by Whytsell, after a process not unlike the blind auditions held on “The Voice” television show.

“I have them sing something we know and something they don't know so I can see how well they can pick up a tune,” she said.

Whytsell has been at Southmoreland School District for seven years and has taken kids to the WCMEA concert each year. She thoroughly enjoys seeing the finished product.

“It's really fulfilling as a music educator to see these kids with such enthusiasm,” she said. “They're up there smiling. You have a couple kids like that in your chorus all the time, but to see (so many) of them all doing it, and being together and making new friends, and because it's music, it's really a neat thing.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 of

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