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Charles City pianist Sheckler organizes 300-part virtual performance

Charles City pianist Sheckler organizes 300-part virtual performance
This screen capture from YouTube shows the 300-person ensemble cast gathered by Harrison Sheckler of Charles City to perform Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Press Staff Report

A Charles City native and accomplished pianist has brought together a mix of 300 musicians from 15 different countries for a virtual video performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Harrison Sheckler, now working on his masters degree in piano performance at Brooklyn College, collected the digital contributions from a small army for more than a month and had the project professionally produced by friends he had met while earning his bachelor’s degree.

The performance, from the musical “Carousel,” is available now on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

Charles City pianist Sheckler organizes 300-part virtual performance
Charles City native Harrison Sheckler plays the introduction to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the beginning of a 300-part virtual chorus and orchestra performance he organized.

Sheckler said he is now living at his parents’ home in Charles City and finishing his first year of masters study online at Brooklyn College because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s great to be home,” he said. His parents are Dr. Kenneth and Ellen Sheckler.

Sheckler said he left New York the middle of March, anticipating a short absence.

“The Brooklyn College Choir had been preparing for performances with the New York Philharmonic, and then that was gone,” he said.

“Arriving home in Iowa, I found comfort in playing this beautiful song from the musical ‘Carousel,’ which coincidentally is celebrating its 75th anniversary,” he said.

“I embarked on collaborating online like so many others are doing,” he said. “I am excited about the positive response and am looking forward to sharing the final production with the world.”

Soliciting help online from his home in Charles City through a network of musical connections, Sheckler received tracks from all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, Vietnam, Israel, Australia, South Africa and others.

He said he spent well over 200 hours promoting, organizing submissions and video editing the project.

Josh Meyer and Grant Bayer of Zated Records in Ohio, who Sheckler met in 2019 while getting his bachelor’s degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, produced the video, and the engineers at Zated Records spent 30 hours mixing and mastering the 300 tracks.

“What started to fill the void of music collaboration has evolved to new meaning for me with the lengthened quarantine,” Sheckler said. “Hopefully, the words, ‘you’ll never walk alone,’ along with the visual of 300 people joining together offers the audience some comfort and peace during this time.”

Brooklyn College’s Director of Choirs Malcolm Merriweather and Conservatory Orchestra Director George Rothman both asked their students to contribute to the piece.

Merriweather praised his student’s effort.

“Harrison has been the accompanist for our symphonic choir for the past year, and he has captured our hearts with his spirit and talents,” said Merriweather.

“It is not surprising that Harrison independently came up with a fantastic idea to create a virtual ensemble. And, he could not have selected a more appropriate song. The first line of this song, ‘When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high,’ has provided inspiration and solace for our students.”

Rothman was also grateful for Sheckler’s work.

“Harrison’s unique creativity during these unusual and trying times has provided a much-needed uplifting experience for our orchestra students,” Rothman said.

“The themes of comfort and community resonate universally and symbolize what the conservatory does best — connecting emotionally with our peers, families, and communities through music and performance,” Rothman said.

“Refocusing their creative energies toward bringing Harrison’s vision to life helped ease the disappointment of missing our March live concert. We are all grateful to Harrison for thinking of this project and putting it together so quickly for the conservatory’s students.”

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