LANCASTER- A group of close friends decided to give the gift of music this holiday by performing a concert Friday, Dec. 21 that would not only celebrate music, but the life of a local resident, Shelly McGraw.
The concert called “Sing Out!” was held at the Lancaster Presbyterian Church and raised money for Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc., a organization that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults, and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges through summer camping experiences and year-round events and activities.
Eric J. Van Pyrz, who is a 2011 graduate of Lancaster High School and the music director of Sing Out!, said approximately 120 people came to the concert and initially $531 was raised as the second set of the concert began.
“By the end of the night, we raised $830 and I'm expecting that number to go up to $900 with CD sales,” remarked Van Pyrz. “Overall it was a fantastic evening, everything went very smoothly, people loved the concert, many people thanked us for a great evening, and encouraged us to do it again next Christmas, if not in the spring as well. It was definitely a night to remember, being able to sing with each other, and for the audience to sit and enjoy our music.”
Van Pyrz, who attends University at Buffalo for technical theater, explained that once the school year starts, he and his friends don’t see much of each other, if not at all, and it isn’t until summer comes when they can finally get together and perform.
“Many of us that are all friends and have performed together in the past decided to get together and put together a Christmas concert filled with beautiful music for our community,” said Van Pyrz.
Shortly after planning the concert, a friend of the family and Lancaster resident, McGraw, who was diagnosed with cancer six years ago, had taken a turn for the worse and medical and household expenses were building up, because she was unable to work anymore. It was at that time, Van Pyrz and his friends decided to help McGraw by making the performance a benefit choral concert.
Unfortunately, McGraw passed away in the beginning of November and it was then decided to accept free will offerings during the concert and donate the money to a local charity on the behalf of McGraw.
“We did not want to necessarily make it a memorial concert, because personally I don't think she would have liked that,” said Van Pyrz. “She wouldn’t have wanted us to be sad. Donating the money to a local charity on her behalf is something she would have been totally for.”
“A lot of us knew her and she was the sweetest lady you will ever meet,” added Van Pyrz. “She loved music and loved kids.”
The audience enjoyed two sets of music. The first set featured choral songs and pieces of music from musicals such as Spring Awakening, Shrek the Musical, and the concert opened with the song “Circle of Life” from The Lion King. The second set was geared toward holiday and Christmas songs, including a beautiful arrangement of the First Noel and music from Amy Grant and Dan Forrest.
Singers in the show included: Brittany Bassett, Shelby Bosse, Cori Jaskier, Taylor Carlson, Leandra Hoeglmeier, Lexi Hoeglmeier, Nicole Jaworowicz, who also helped organized the concert, Katie Kaminski, Leah Voit, Tara Kaczorowski, Sarah Stroka, Steven Saelzler, Jeff Kihl, Daniel Mertzlufft, John Kaczorowski, Tuan Malinowski, Kevin Stevens, Colton Wright and Chace DeLoach.
Van Pyrz accompanied the singers on the piano and instrumentalists included Ashley Rogers, violin; Brad Stroka, djembe; and Emily Van Pyrz, cello.
“I couldn't justly describe to you what was going through all of our minds at the end of the night,” commented Van Pyrz. “I suppose I'll have to start planning for next year sometime in the next few hours, if I'm going to be able to top this one. [But] I would love for the community to make this a family tradition and come see us perform every year.”
Anyone interested in ordering a CD can do so by going to http://purchase.jetmedia.us/. The cost is $15 each and $10 is immediately donated to Camp Good Days and Special Times Inc. and the other $5 goes to the production of the disc.