Choral Arts Society will lead official D-Day commemoration performances in Normandy
By Laura Dukes | Special to The Frederick News-Post | Feb 7, 2023
The Choral Arts Society of Frederick is going from a year of post-pandemic re-building to the opportunity of a lifetime.
The Frederick Community College based choir has been chosen to represent the United States in the official D-Day American Celebrations in Normandy and Paris. About 35 singers from the 55-member choir will be traveling from June 2 through 8, though some members are choosing to arrive earlier or stay later.
Lynn Staininger, the CASF artistic director, said they were nominated and vetted by the organization Historic Programs, the official production company of the U.S. Department of Defense. Their initial nomination was anonymous and Historic Programs vetted the group through the choir’s website and by reaching out to musicians with whom they’d worked in the past.
Staininger received an official invitation in August and at first figured it was a typical festival invitation, as they have performed overseas in the past. She then saw an official military signature and realized “it was probably the most important invitation we ever received,” Staininger said.
She was even more excited to learn that they were invited to be the lead choir, among several other community, professional and high school choirs.
“Their entire mission is to honor the veterans of World War II,” Staininger said.
Throughout the week, they will have an intense performing schedule, including singing a solo at a wreath laying ceremony, as well as some concerts where they will be the only performers. They’ll sing patriotic and 1940s-themed tunes, such as “I’ll Be Seeing You” and the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” They will sing more solemn American spirituals during the wreath laying ceremony, Staininger said.
Because the trip takes place during the final weeks of the school year, and several members are teachers and college professors, not all singers are able to attend. They also have to pay for all travel expenses.
“This is a service to the country,” Staininger said.
This is a “bucket list” opportunity for many members, so there has been some fundraising involved. Some of the students also received a grant from the Delaplaine Foundation for the trip.
One special element to performing this year is the Department of Defense estimates it will be the next to last year that a living veteran will be in attendance. It’s also the 79th anniversary of D-Day, as well as the 79th year that the CASF has been in existence.
“It’s a nice little moment of karma,” she said.
The choir itself is a diverse group with members ranging in age from 16 to 79. Faith Kiser is one of its student members from Hood College, where she is a junior studying business and French. She said she knew right away that she wanted to participate as a way to show gratitude toward WWII veterans.
“That sacrifice definitely isn’t something to be taken lightly,” she said.
The North Carolina native has performed at her hometown’s veterans museum before and has sung the National Anthem and “God Bless America” at ceremonies in the past.
“It’s a big passion of mine,” Kiser said of patriotic performances. “I like to give back whenever I can.”
She is planning to stay for a week or two after the concerts and is applying for an internship in Paris with the help of her French professor.
Hood College senior Hailey Williams said she hopes the experience will be a bonding one for the choir. She said she does not speak French but is hoping to learn some common phrases and lingo, as well as more about the history of the country.
Williams said her father was in the U.S. Army, and she thinks of the performances as a way to serve the country without actually being in the military.
“They call it a musical salute, which I think is really cool,” Williams said.
For Staininger, the experience also has personal importance since her parents, Ray and Helen Staininger, served as a navigator and a nurse, respectively, during WWII.
This is her 20th year with the CASF.
The group has rehearsed for Normandy since their season started in September.
They will perform all of the music from the France performances at a local concert on May 12 and 13 at Frederick Community College.
“It’s the most unexpected invitation,” Staininger said. “It’s changed the trajectory of our 79th year in the best way possible.”