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Southmoreland chorus returning to PNC Park

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

It's becoming a rite of spring.

The Southmoreland fifth- and sixth-grade chorus will once again sing the national anthem at PNC Park before a Pittsburgh Pirates' baseball game.

The appearance Wednesday at the Bucs interleague contest against the Baltimore Orioles marks the third straight year Meghan Whytsell — music and chorus teacher for Southmoreland's primary center and elementary school — will take the chorus to the ballpark to sing the anthem.

“I know more of what to expect, but the kids still don't,” Whytsell said. “It's a good experience for them. It's fun to see them get excited about it. Every year it's a new group. The sixth-graders have been there before, some of them, so they know what to expect. The fifth-graders haven't, so they're still abuzz with excitement. They're not really sure how it goes. At least I have a better idea of how to prepare them now.”

Part of that preparation involved a recent outdoor rehearsal to get the chorus of about 80 students more accustom to singing at an outdoor venue.

“There is no acoustics (outside), the sound just goes up in the air,” Whytsell explained. “It's like you're singing by yourself.”

To be able to sing at the game, chorus members had to sell at least 350 tickets. That was not a problem as about 400 were sold.

As the moments draw near to “show time,” Whytsell admitted there are some nerves for her and the kids. There is excitement for the kids to get a chance to be up close with some of the players, with whom they can't converse, but from whom they're received waives in the past.

“It's like a concert, you want them to do their best,” she said. “Not only that, they're in front of so many more people so you want them to do their best and not be scared.”

When it's time to take the field other emotions may take over.

“It's kind of overwhelming, but in a good way,” Whytsell said. “I'm so excited for the kids to sing in a place like this and all of these people get to see them.”

Since the chorus has been invited for three straight years, the past appearances must have gone well.

“It's gone just fine,” Whytsell said. “The kids perform well under pressure for some reason. The kids pull it together. They always sound great every time. We work so hard and you hear it all come together and there's a buzz within the stadium, I'm so proud.”

Superintendent John Molnar, obviously, thinks the PNC Park appearance is great for the school district.

“I commend (Whytsell) for the effort she puts forth providing that kind of exposure for the kids,” he said. “I commend her enthusiasm. It certainly provides our students with an opportunity they otherwise would never have. It's pretty exciting for the community.”

It's an opportunity Whytsell is happy to provide.

“The only way to advocate your program is to let people see what you can do and this is one of the best ways of doing that,” Whytsell said. “It's pretty awesome for me too. I'm happy for the kids to experience this. It's a once-in-a lifetime experience.”

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