Prayer in song: choir members throughout U.S. assemble in W-B

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – More than 170 choir singers from across the country have descended on northeastern Pennsylvania. They are raising their voices in song for a unique program. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller takes us to one of the choir’s final rehearsals.

Prayer set to music is what filled St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in downtown Wilkes-Barre on Thursday. The sweet blending of voices came from a choir whose members come virtually from coast to coast ranging in age from 10 to about 80.

They’re attending King’s College Summer Choir Training Course. It’s the largest course of its kind in North America offered by the Christian music education organization, the Royal School of Church Music in America.

As organist and choirmaster at St. Mark’s Church in Philadelphia, Robert McCormick is no stranger to lifting voices. Just not as many as he is guiding this week as guest music director.

“It’s a particular challenge but also a joy to sort of help bring them all together through all the music we’re doing,” he said.

Choir members virtually hit the ground running. After arriving in Wilkes-Barre on Monday, they sang later that evening at King’s College where they are staying for the week. What they’re singing isn’t what they’re used to in their home churches. These selections are common in the church of England.

“And so we can do compositions that involve tremendous diversity and complexity,” said Jeff West who is a visiting choir member from Dallas, Texas.

Mr. West made this spiritual music experience a family affair. His wife, Tracy, and two teenage children are also visiting choir members.

Mrs. West said, “It’s both a musical experience and a spiritual experience here. It’s a retreat of kinds.”

16-year-old JoEllen West said, “It’s so cool to me to think that we’re all here in one place singing one song together.”

Her 16-year-old brother Devon added, “St. Augustine said, ‘Singing is just like praying twice.’ I really believe in that.”

It’s been a tireless week of perfecting that musical prayer.

Mr. McCormick said during the rehearsal, “You can put this on my tombstone: listen louder than you sing.”

The listening and the singing are moving for these choir members like Julie Falcone who is a parishioner and choir member at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral.

“It floats my spirit again,” she said.

It’s a feeling she and her fellow choir members hope those who hear them will experience, too. The weeklong program will conclude Sunday with two public performances at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral. Click here for a list of all of this week’s performances.

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