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State College choir sings back-up for Barry

Barry Manilow performs at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday as part of his “One Last Time” tour.
Barry Manilow performs at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday as part of his “One Last Time” tour. adrey@centredaily.com

Not every Barry Manilow song is complete without a back-up singer.

Or 34.

Insert the State College Choral Society. The group often collaborates with other community music groups, but they added one of the best-selling music artists of his time to the list Saturday.

Manilow’s team contacted SCCS general manager Tom Penkala in February and asked the group to be a part of the concert’s finale at the Bryce Jordan Center.

“I responded yes, of course, and put it out to our membership to sign up,” Penkala said. “Barry Manilow music, that’s my generation. For most of our society members, we’ve lived through Barry Manilow’s career. We’re just really excited at the opportunity.”

The group is usually the one offering their singing to audiences throughout the region.

“I sing with the Little German Band,” SCCS member Morgen Hummel said. “I’m the frontwoman for that group. A number of people in our group perform in a number of ways, but I don’t know of anyone who has ever performed with someone like Barry Manilow. I think we’re all excited, humbled and flattered.”

Hummel, the mother of Sgt. Adam Hartswick, a wounded veteran, has met several celebrities and leaders such as Seth Myers and President Barack Obama.

“I’ve encountered some exceptional individuals,” she said. “This opportunity stands out because it is due directly to a talent that I have. (It’s) a sense of accomplishment and affirmation to receive this opportunity and an honor to be affiliated with such an outstanding musician and music ambassador like Barry Manilow.”

Not just that.

She was a Manilow fan growing up.

“Oh, my friends have been digging pictures out from high school, and they’ve been looking for pictures of Barry Manilow posters,” Hummel said. “We have all of his old albums.”

The choir prepared for what may have been the biggest stage of their singing careers.

No pressure, according to Hummel.

“We all know it’s the tail end of flu season,” she said. “I just came off the tail end of three weeks of sinuses. We know all the tricks, and they are simple. No strenuous talking, singing or yelling. Save your voice, drink lots of water and get a lot of sleep. That’s all important for your health, body and mind.”

The group, which wore all black covered by red robes, sang “Copacabana,” “It’s a Miracle” and “I Write the Songs.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli

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