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Hoping the music doesn't die

Published April 02. 2011 09:00AM

Ron Beltz of Lehighton loves singing. That's why he joined the Coal Cracker Chorus, an all-male chorus that's part of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

He stressed that it isn't discriminatory being "all male" because there is an all-female unit, the Sweet Adelines.

The Coal Cracker Chorus has been bringing musical joy to countless individuals for over 60 years. The group, based in Barnesville and consisting of about 18 members from throughout Carbon and Schuylkill Counties, formed in 1950.

The chorus originated as the Mahanoy City Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.), which is now known as the national Barbershop Harmony Society. Over the years, membership expanded outside of Mahanoy City and now includes members from throughout the region.

Beltz is afraid that last year's annual concert was the group's finale.

The reason, he said, is because the Coal Cracker Chorus needs a director. Carol Steigerwalt of Mahoning Township filled in for a short time as director, but it was only on an interim basis. Other obligations, including employment, prevent her from staying on in the position.

She was the director when the Chorus held its annual concert last September in the Tamaqua Middle School.

Before that, LeRoy Scheffler served as director for about five years.

Of the annual show, Beltz said, "This year we don't know if we will be able to do one because of the situation with having no director."

Besides its annual concert, the Coal Cracker Chorus often performs for various organizations, including Lions and Rotary Clubs.

Beltz, who has been with the Chorus for over a decade, said the Barbershop Quartet isn't affected by the lack of a director.

"It's a lot of fun," he said, "and I hope we can continue."

The first effect of not having a director become obvious next weekend when the annual telethon of the Carbon-Schuylkill Unit of the American Cancer Society is held.

"We always do the telethon," he said. But not this year. We won't be on it this year. I wish we could."

Beltz said besides lacking a director, the number of members isn't as high as it used to be.

He said, "Anyone who can sing and would like to join us, I know they would enjoy it."

If interested in either being the director of the Coal Cracker Chorus, or joining as a member, contact:

• Richard Clemson, president, at 570-668-1863,

• Al Hoffman at 570-668-0249.

• Ron Beltz at 610-377-3913.

The name implies the local heritage that the group represents.

Beltz said the chorus' mission is to perpetuate the old American Institution, barbershop harmony, and to promote and encourage vocal harmony and good fellowship among their members.

He's hoping that the music he has come to love so much, and to enjoy performing, doesn't die.

Unless a director is found, that probably will happen.

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