Clarion University Chamber Singers Raising Money to Attend Prestigious Music Competition in Wales

| January 5, 2019

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion University’s Chamber Singers are hoping to make their way “across the pond” this July to compete in the annual Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod in Wales, U.K.

The Chamber Singers, comprised of 40 Clarion University students, took part in the highly competitive event in 2016 and managed to place third. For a much smaller group at the time, singing with only 24 members, it was quite an accomplishment; however, Professor Stephen Johnson, who has been the director of the Chamber Singers for the past five years, has even higher hopes this year.

Johnson told exploreClarion.com, “We were the smallest choir there, and we just didn’t have the depth of sound necessary. But, I believe if we had a larger group, we would have taken second, or even possibly first.”

While Johnson has high hopes for the Chamber Singers chances, it is their funding situation that has him concerned.

“In order to make this trip affordable for all of the students in the Chamber Singers, we will need to raise most of the money by the end of this month (January),” said Johnson.

According to Johnson, the Chamber Singers need to raise $100,000.00, which is a tall order for a small singing group from a local state university.

“We need to have most of it, so the university will tell me to go ahead with it. The travel company has already purchased the plane tickets, and we have to let them know by end of the month if we can’t do it and have to cancel the tickets. If we were able to continue fundraising, we might get close, but I’m going to have to have a good part of it raised, or we won’t be allowed to go ahead with the project,” said Johnson.

“I suppose we could surrender to the apparent financial circumstances, but that is not how miracles happen.”

“This project is worth the effort because this experience will be so meaningful, and it will be of lifelong significance for each student that sings in the Chamber Singers.”

Before Johnson took over as director of the Chamber Singers, though the group had been in existence at Clarion University for 50 to 60 years, they had never competed. Johnson decided to take that first major step back in 2016, and he’s glad he did.

“It was very affirming for the students. That’s the primary reason I do this. When I took over five years ago, they were already very good, but they didn’t believe that. It was really an incredible moment of affirmation, discovering that just because you’re from a little school didn’t mean you can’t be competitive on the world stage. You have to work hard, and no one is going to hand it to you, but you can be competitive.”

The Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod is a highly competitive international competition with a rigorous audition process.

More than 100 choirs submitting audition tapes and applications, and only seven choirs are selected to compete in the Youth Choir competition.

Clarion Chamber Singers at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in 2016.

Clarion Chamber Singers at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in 2016.

History of the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod

This event is steeped in history.

During World War II, the bombing of Cardiff, Wales, by Nazi German Air Force began in 1940 and lasted until March 1944. Nearly 2,100 bombs fell on Cardiff City in the final bombing run alone, killing 355 people. England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland lost 62,000 civilians and 326,000 military personnel over the course of the war.

Following the end of the war, in 1947, the people of Llangollen, Wales created the Eisteddfod, which is a competitive festival of music, seeking to use music to help bring people from around the world back together in peace after so much conflict.

Just two years later, in 1949, the first German people to visit Wales after the end of the war were the people of a choir from Lubeck, Germany, who came to compete in the Eisteddfod. To their surprise, they were met at the train station by a crowd of local townspeople who greeted them warmly. Later that night, at the concert, Hyuwel Roberts, a local organizer whose brother had died during the last week of fighting in Germany, introduced the Lubeck choir as “our friends from Germany” prompting an outpouring of emotion from both the performers and the audience.

“There is a black and white photo of the people of Wales greeting the Lubeck choir at the train station. The expressions on the faces of the people and the significance of that moment affected me deeply,” Johnson said.

“More people need to know about and better understand the significance of this wonderful moment. What better way is there than through music?”

According to Johnson, he reached out to Anders Edenroth, who is the founder, composer, and one of the performers in the a cappella group The Real Group, to compose a new piece for the Clarion University Chamber Singers to perform at the Eisteddfod.

“Anders was excited to take on this challenge and so the Chamber Singers have commissioned him to compose a new choral work to commemorate the kindness the people of Llangollen bestowed on the members of the Lubeck choir.”

With their very special song being prepared and the students primed for a competition of the highest level, only the financial concerns remain.

The Clarion Chamber Singers are now reaching out to the community, both locally and more widely through social media, hoping for the financial help they need to travel to Wales in July.

“I’m kind of hoping for a miracle I guess, but I can’t not do this. These kids have worked so hard, and this would mean so much to them,” Johnson said.

Donate to the Chamber Singers’ Fund

To donate, checks can be sent (made out to the Clarion University Foundation/Chamber Singers Travel Account) to Dr. Stephen Johnson, 230 Marwick-Boyd Fine Arts, Clarion University, Clarion, PA 16214.

To contribute by credit card, visit https://alumniandfriends.cuf-inc.org/donatenow and follow these instructions.

  • 1. On the foundation’s home page click on “Give Now”
  • 2. Designate the amount
  • 3. On the Designation window, use the arrow to scroll to “other”
  • 4. When the blank window pops open type in “Chamber Singers Travel Account”
  • 5. Fill out the rest of the form giving your personal and credit card information

Anyone who is not in a position to contribute right now, but would like to make a pledge can contact Dr. Johnson by e-mail (stjohnson@clarion.edu) or by calling and leaving a message at 814-393-2436.


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