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Maryland choir to represent United States at D-Day ceremonies in Normandy

by Jay Korff, WJLA | May 11 2023 at 1:10 PM

FREDERICK, Md. (7News) — In the world of choral music, each part sings in service to the soaring beauty of unison. But the Choral Arts Society of Frederick and their beloved director and conductor of 20 years never imagined their voices would rise together in service to the country.

“As directors, we get a lot of invitations to festivals. So, at first, I read it lightly. ‘Would you like your choir to come sing in Normandy?’ Oh yeah that’s a nice invitation,” said Choral Arts Society of Frederick Artistic Director and Conductor Lynn Staininger.

Staininger told 7News, in a moment of sweet kismet this choir, in its 79th year of existence, was chosen as the lone choral group to represent the United States in June on the 79th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France.

The Choral Arts Society of Frederick rehearsed for official D-Day ceremonies in France. (Jay Korff, 7News)

I first heard about this remarkable opportunity from tenor Joseph Peterson. His grandfather Eugene Jones flew C-47 transport planes over the Pacific during WWII. Joseph, in turn, asked fellow singers to bring pictures of loved ones who also fought in the Second World War. Close to a third of the choir showed up with photos, including their director.

“My dad was a pilot for B-17s and he served in the Pacific theater and my mom was a nurse,” said Staininger.

Jeff Fishman’s father, Sydney, served with distinction in the European theater.

Nothing, though, prepares you for Andy Harley’s heartbreaking connection to D-Day: considered among the most consequential military campaigns in human history. Harley said in April of 1944, someone snapped the last picture of his great uncle Calvin Cannon taken on his 27th birthday.

“And that was less than two months before he was storming those beaches and you look at that picture, he looked like a good human being, a good soul. An uncle I would have loved to meet,” Harley said.

Harley said that on June 6, 1944, Cannon stepped on a mine only moments after landing on Omaha Beach, becoming the first person from Frederick County, Md. to die in France on that harrowing day. Harley said as emotional as it will be, he can’t wait to be the first in his family to return to the very place where young men of honor sacrificed everything to turn back tyranny.

The choir’s final performances before heading off to France will be on May 12 at 7:30 p.m. and May 13 at 3 p.m.