By TIM CLEVELAND
On Feb. 25, the Austintown Fitch High School choir received a check for $150 from the American Legion Auxiliary Austintown Unit 301 as a thank you for the work the choir has done over the years in singing for various veterans hospitals. With the American Legion Auxiliary also giving the students red poppies made of red crepe paper and assembled by veterans, they received so much more.
As it has done annually since 1972, the Fitch choir will once again be going on a tour in which it will sing at a veterans hospital. From April 24-26 the choir will be in New York City, and on the last night, the 54-member choir will sing at Lyons Veterans Hospital in Lyons, N.J.
Fitch choir Director Craig Carson explained the history of the tours.
“It goes back to 1972. Rosemarie Kascher was the first Fitch High School choir director and Milton Kochert, who was a staff member at Fitch High School, but was also part of the navy during his service days,” he said. “They started taking the choir on tour and they would stay at military bases because back then that was still OK and that was pre-9/11.
“The choir has a history that anytime the choir is on tour, they perform at veterans hospitals. We’re trying to honor our veterans for how much they’ve done in service of our country and we’re just so thankful for our freedom. It’s a little way we can just say thanks to them.”
Last year, the choir performed at the veterans hospital in Hampton, Va.
“We’re so impressed with what they’ve done over the 40-plus years for our veterans; visiting them during their spring break in hospitals and putting on programs for them,” said Austintown Unit 301 Secretary Linda Milne.
Carson was asked what songs the choir will perform for the veterans.
“We’re going to be doing a patriotic section on our trip when we sing at the veterans hospital,” he said. “Some of the songs are ‘God Bless America,’ ‘Land of the Free,’ ‘My America,’ which would feature the guys, and then also ‘Thank You Soldiers.’ We’ll do a pop section; the girls would be featured on ‘Sixties Chicks,’ and the guys will sing ‘The Roots of Rock and Roll.’ This isn’t part of the patriotic deal, but we’re trying it out today. We have a medley called ‘Top 40,’ then we have a Broadway thing called ‘Newsies’ that we’re going to perform.
“After the kids are done singing, then they’ll interact with the veterans. We’ll either do cards – they made cards for them – or we’ll go up and say hello. We do that no matter where we perform. It’s a good way to talk to your audience, if it’s a nursing home or just school kids.”
For the first two days of the trip, Carson said the students will be able to take in the sights and sounds of New York City, plus get an education from a Broadway performer.
“We’re going to go see two Broadway musicals,” he said. “On Thursday night (April 24) we’re going to see ‘Motown the Musical.’ On Friday night we’re going to see the musical Newsies. Then we’re also going to do a Broadway classroom workshop. A Broadway performer from one of those two musicals will teach a routine to our kids. We’ll do some sightseeing in the city. We look forward to a great tour.”