Traveling singing group Re-Creation visits Emmaus
Richard Miller was on a family vacation when he first learned of the traveling singing group Re-Creation.
The group performed for campers in the state park where Miller was staying.
Since then, he has been the mastermind behind three visits by the group to St. John’s United Church of Christ, Emmaus, bringing the group in 2008, 2011 and, most recently, Nov. 20.
“The first half was terrific,” Miller said, referring to the 8 a.m. service at which the group performed. “And I know the second half will be, too,” he joked while chatting with a reporter just before the 10:30 a.m. service at the church.
The most recent iteration of the group Re-Creation features 11 singers.
Founded in 1976 at Penn State, the group first performed in Pennsylvania before being asked to tour for the United Service Organizations, including stops in Veterans Administration hospitals. The group is now “the only live, professional, therapeutic entertainment” in VA medical centers and state veterans homes, according to the group’s literature and website.
The Emmaus performance came on the heels of shows in Alaska.
“You get to travel. You get to perform and do it for a good cause,” Jordan Marlof, a member of the group for two years and the group’s road manager, said. “It is definitely one of the better experiences you can really have.”
The programs for veterans are free and all of the singers are volunteers. Many take time off from college or are taking a gap year between high school and their freshman year. The singers travel by van to most of their shows. They serve as their own roadies, carrying and setting up their own equipment, handling the costumes, striking and packing the show and moving themselves and their gear to their next destination. This year’s group also includes Jonathan Gagnon, who is the sound engineer and Alex Leitzel, who is the media and lighting technician. Jay Muller directs the program and group.
Austin Keretzman joined the group three years ago. He described the audition process, noting each person does vocal and dance auditions. There is also a rigorous personal interview process where you learn whether you can “step up and say this is what I want to do,” Keretzman said.
The Sunday morning programs at St. John’s U.C.C. featured a range of music to showcase the voices of the singers including “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “You Raise Me Up,” a Grammy-nominated song by singer Josh Groban. Given the church setting, the program included hymns and other songs with religious themes.
The group also performs in other venues, which, like the church appearances, help the members raise funds to support the free performances for veterans.
Miller is always impressed by the group and the young people who perform. He owns 11 Re-Creation CDs.
“We may have them back someday,” Miller said with a smile.