GAIL WHITE Music, brotherhood bless fair's worship service
"May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
The sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,"
The melodic notes of the "Old Irish Blessing" will be heard ringing through the sound stage at the Canfield Fair this Sunday morning during the fair's ecumenical church service.
There has been a Sunday worship service on the fairgrounds since the fair began in 1846.
Kay Sittig of Canfield has been in charge of the music for the 9:30 a.m. service since 1968.
"Everybody keeps moving along," Sittig says of fair officials and pastors who officiate the service. "I'm still doing this."
Indeed, after 34 years, the fair choir just wouldn't be the same without this spunky retired schoolteacher.
"In the beginning, the kids in choir did it," Sittig says, speaking of Canfield High School, where she served as music director. "We used to have 150 singers."
From far and wide
The fair choir that gathers at 9 Sunday morning now comes from far and wide.
"I worry about no one showing," Sittig confesses. "But we always have 55 or 60. I don't know why I worry. We get altos and sopranos, tenors and basses from every walk of life."
Peggy Stone Goff of Canfield has been singing in the fair choir since her beloved schoolteacher began directing it.
"I love to sing, and I love Mrs. Sittig," she said, beaming. "I wouldn't miss it."
Sittig's legacy has followed her onto the stage as well.
A former student, Tom Scurich and his wife, Kelly, now assist Sittig with the music.
"A teacher, in general, leaves a legacy. But somebody like her really leaves an impact," Tom Scurich says.
"She is spunky and energetic," he continues. "But at the same time, very sensitive."
Reflecting back on his high school days in choir, Scurich says, "It was her and the music she chose that left a great impact."
Sittig's choice of music for her students was not all pop. She exposed her students to timeless classics like Handel's "Messiah" and "Canon in D." No student left a semester of choir without knowing Sittig's favorite -- "Old Irish Blessing."
Although her teaching days are over, Sittig's love of music will never end.
She marvels at the way the fair choir comes together every year.
Those who arrive to sing set the chairs in place while warming up their voices with Sittig at the piano.
The Scuriches tend to the microphones, singing a few bars to get a sound level.
Margaret Fieger, a retired Canfield elementary music teacher, passes out the sheet music to the singers.
Fieger's daughter, Barbara, tunes her flute to accompany the singers.
At 9:28, anthems have been rehearsed and everyone is in place.
"Administrators would have to have a meeting. Coaches would need a huddle," Sittig said, chuckling. "We just get together and have instant music."
It is this "instant music" that Goff finds to be a blessing.
"To go to the fair, sit with people from other churches and sing ... the whole program is a blessing," she says.
"It is a church without walls," Sittig says, blissfully. "There are no stained-glass windows, no air conditioning. The noises of the fair surround the worship service. A tractor out on the track revs up its engine ready for the tractor pull; a maintenance man backs up his golf cart and heads out to sort some problem on the grounds."
All the while, Sittig, hands moving across the grand piano, leads the choir. ...
"And until we meet again,
May God, may God,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand."
XTo be a part of the Canfield Fair choir, report to the sound stage between the Big Rock and the maintenance building at 8:55 Sunday morning. All participants get a free fair ticket.