Tech students reach out and help barbershop singers

Maine-ly Harmony chorus members display their safety riser backs, from left to right, Dee Dumais, Cathy Anderson, Betty Avery, Candace Pepin, BJ Pellett, Lea Davis and Dotti Meyer. (Photo courtesy Maine-ly Harmony)

by Lea Davis

Maine-ly Harmony women’s a capella barbershop chorus travels around the state performing for civic and church organizations, senior citizens, VA veterans, open houses, festivals, fund-raisers, Valentine greetings to individuals, the list goes on and on. The women who harmonize together bring smiles wherever they go. The members rehearse on Wednesday evenings at the Emmanuel Lutheran Episcopal Church, in Augusta. At rehearsals and performances, they stand on risers to be able to see the director and to be seen by audiences. But singers positioned on the high back row of the risers have been uneasy for some time, fearful that a move could result in falling backwards. Well, the ladies fear no more!

Thanks to teacher Bob Stewart, at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center (LRTC) and his students, the singers now have riser bars across the back to keep them safe!

It all came about when chorus member, and former Lewiston High School teacher, Dee Dumais, contacted the LRTC regarding the need for riser bars. Since students are geared to work on community projects as well as school projects to enhance and promote their valuable skills, Bob was receptive to considering the project for his Sheet Metal and Welding Class. To the delight of the chorus members, the juniors and seniors of his two-year program tackled the challenge. And what a challenge it was!

Most of the construction was custom made, with no manual or instructions, other than YouTube videos and comparisons with the back rails of the risers used by Lewiston’s high school chorus. Some issues involved pipe bending, he said, which had to be very specific, as well as reworking dimensions, sizing and measurements. Reworking also involved the welding because the process can cause warping of the metal.

The clamps that hold the rails to the risers had to be redone a couple of times to allow installation to be user-friendly. It turned into a three-year intensive project for Bob and his students, with a few setbacks along the way, and all done while other class projects were ongoing. The riser bars were completed last June, with the juniors and soon-to-be-graduating seniors adding much labor to the finishing touches.

Students who participated on the project were Caleb Anthony, Daniel Bolton, Joe Cloutier, Griffin Johnson, Justin Merrill, Garrett Sampson, Connor Sullivan and Corey Wires. Bob said that he and his students feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in their efforts and hope that Maine-ly Harmony will remember them with fondness whenever they sing on the risers (which is every week!)

Lewiston Regional Technical Center encompasses students from area schools in Lewiston, Oak Hill, Lisbon, Edward Little, Poland, Leavitt Area High School and Christian Academy, as well as home-schooled students. Bob Stewart is only the second instructor of sheet metal and welding, hired in 2005 to replace retiring long-term instructor Rene Chicoine. Bob credits his predecessor for being a great instructor and the driving influence for keeping him in school when he attended Rene’s 1985-87 class, adding, “Rene’s kindness and LRTC’s ability to give me purpose and a place to shine truly changed the course of my life.”

Maine-ly Harmony members are grateful, indeed, and breathing easier these days when their repertoire includes dance moves in such songs as “Could I Have This Dance” and “I Heard It On the Grapevine!”


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