Annual Concert Celebrates Country’s Independence

Sensational tenor Edward Washington II will join the merry music makers for a star-spangled Independence Day Extravaganza at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling.

The always popular concert begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 4, in the main church, located at 1410 Chapline St. The church is accessible to wheelchairs from the building’s 15th Street entrance. The event is free and open to the public; free-will contributions to Faith in Action Caregivers are accepted.

Washington will join soprano Sue Pettit and organist Robert Troeger on the patriotic program. Pettit, a member of the parish choir, will perform patriotic numbers and medleys of show tunes and will lead the traditional sing-along of standards and old favorites.

Troeger, St. Matthew’s director of music, will serve as host for the concert. Also joining in the fun will be guest musicians Eli Lambie and Tim Birch.

A highlight of the concert is expected to be the sublime selection, “Come Sunday” by Duke Ellington, that Washington and Pettit will sing as a duet, with a saxophone solo by Lambie.

Washington also will sing a set of songs drawn from his extensive repertoire, Troeger said. The tenor performs numbers from various categories, including Americana pieces, hymns, spirituals and other songs with Christian themes. He also is proficient in arias and art songs.

Speaking of his appearance in Wheeling this week, Washington said he is “very happy to be in West Virginia to celebrate community and America by sharing music.”

Audience participation is always a favorite part of the Independence Day Extravaganza. The crowds filling the church are called upon for the sing-alongs, the medley of military service anthems and, often, special surprises. The youngest members of the audience are invited to participate in the concert’s rousing finale, the “Stars and Stripes Forever” march.

As is customary, Pettit will dazzle spectators with an amazing array of red, white and blue attire embellished with sparkling accents. The well-known singer usually has several surprises up her sleeves, to the delight of concert-goers.

In honor of the nation’s founding 236 years ago, birthday cake and lemonade will be served in the parish hall after the concert.

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Born in Oxford, England, tenor Washington resides in the Orlando, Fla., region. He is the tenor 1 section leader and member of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. He also is the nusic and education director of the “Negro Spiritual” Scholarship Foundation.

Currently, Washington is an artist with Florida Opera Theatre. He also performs with Penguin Entertainment as part of its Motown review and performs with an Orlando group, Four Divo. His repertoire encompasses opera, musical theater, art songs and spirituals.

Washington holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Stetson University, where he studied voice, piano, clarinet and conducting. He was selected for intensive vocal study and master classes. He is a former Orlando Opera affiliate artist.

In 2009, Washington attended Suola Italia in Urbana, Italy, under the direction of Sylvia Stone. He achieved the rank of finalist in the 2010 University of Kentucky’s Alltech Scholarship competition, while performing twice in that same season with Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.

On the operatic stage, his roles have included Frank in Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus,” Gardener in Giannini’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Counselor in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury,” Man 1 in Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs for a New World,” Ralph in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore,” Robbins in George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and Parpigol in Puccini’s “La Boheme.”

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During the concert, Jeanette L. Wojcik, executive director of Faith in Action Caregivers, will explain the interfaith ministry’s mission. Faith in Action Caregivers supports the independent living of older adults and people with disabilities in Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties through the shared ministry of faith communities. All services are provided without charge regardless of income level.

Meanwhile, Faith in Action volunteers also are preparing for the nonprofit organization’s major fundraiser, the11th annual triathlon and duathlon, to be held at Wheeling Jesuit University Saturday, July 14. Registration for the event will be accepted through Wednesday, July 11. The race is part of the Health Plan’s Grand Prix Series.

The triathlon begins with a 400-meter swim in the pool at the university’s McDonough Center at 7:30 a.m. The second leg is a 25-K bike course. The race concludes with a 5-K run on paved streets in the neighborhood of the university.

The duathlon will begin at approximately 7:45 a.m. with a group start. In this event, athletes participate in a 3-K run, a 25-K bike ride and another 5-K run.

The Rev. John Brandenburg, Faith in Action Caregivers board president, said, “We hope that returning to Wheeling Jesuit University will bring more participants this year for this fun, family event. By participating in the race, everyone has a chance to make a difference in the lives of our elderly and disabled neighbors.”

Participants can enter either race as individuals in age, weight and gender categories. Competition categories for individual male and female clergy also are offered.

Teams are eligible to participate with each team member completing one leg of the race. Team categories include family, clergy, faith community, several different combined age groups, business, civic/service club or high school.

Applications for the race are available at the Faith in Action Caregivers office, 1359 National Road, Wheeling, and on the organization’s website at Participants can also register online at To have an application mailed, to become a race sponsor, to volunteer on race day or for information on services provided, call the organization at 304-243-5420.

Race participants have the opportunity to stay on campus the night before the race. A pre-race pasta dinner for athletes and volunteers will be held Friday, July 13. For information on campus lodging or the dinner, call 304-243-5420.