The Portsmouth West High School Choir are joining ranks with some local musicians to present a Memorial Concert in honor of Earl Thomas Conley.
On March 14, West Choir Director, Linda Tieman, will bring forth the sounds of her choir group at PWHS, but also invite some other musicians in to perform. The concert is twofold, one it is in honor of Conley, but it is also using all proceeds to go to the Earl Thomas Conley Scholarship Fund.
“Earl Thomas Conley started out in West Portsmouth and then he moved to Indiana, he did, however, go to school here,” Nick Gray, a senior choir member said. “When he died, they had a big memorial for him in Tennessee and Mrs.T (Linda Tieman) and Gary (her husband) went down and met a lot of famous and really cool people, so she wanted to bring that back here to Portsmouth and have our own memorial service for him. We actually have a couple of singers she met there coming for this concert to sing.”
Gray shared he expects a lot of people to come to the concert, along with some of Conley’s family as well.
“She wanted to start her own memorial service from where he grew up,” Gray said.
Cole Tackett, a Junior choir member added, “On our poster, it shows who will be coming…as well as the choir.”
Gray said the scholarship is more like an award and students have to apply at the school. Gray shared he thought there were four people, one of which was himself, and it will be given the night of the concert.
“The choir itself is singing some of the stuff, because we have all the guest singers also, but most of our stuff is music that he did,” Evan Green, a junior choir member said,
Lyla McCleese, a female member of the choir quickly added, “Country.” Gray chimed in with, “A lot of country music that he wrote, like Blake Shelton’s, ‘All Over Me’ and Conway Twitty. McCleese added, “The girls are singing, ‘We Believe in Happy Endings.’ Gray continued, “All the stuff that we’re singing is the stuff he wrote.”
McCleese talked a bit about what the girls were singing and said, “We are doing the ‘We Believe in Happy Endings’ with just the girls in the choir and Jesi Guilkey has a solo in that with Jacob Bays.”
Xavior Camden, a sophomore choir member added, “All the pieces that we are performing, have one or two featured soloists, as well as the ensemble backing like Levi Kohns has a solo. I enjoy that we are giving back to the community the proceeds from the tickets, the fact that we’re able to give back with this concert is amazing.”
The group that was talking about the concert were laughing about Tieman and how they could tell she was really passionate about doing the concert because she is doing country, which they said she does not necessarily like. Green brought up that they did ‘Jolene’ his freshman year and said she told them, “I don’t think I’ll ever do country again.”
When asked if the group liked what they were singing in the concert, they all said that they really did. And when asked how they felt about someone so famous, like Conley does it make them feel that it is possible and they said that it did. They also said that before they started preparing for this concert the only thing most of them knew about Conley was the Earl Thomas Conley park, right beside their school, but they found out he had a lot of No. 1 songs.
“This project(concert) has been a good learning opportunity for everyone in the choir,” Camden said.
Tieman gave her reason for this concert, “The whole idea behind this concert is to help the students realize that you can be a success no matter what your background. The students knew Earl Thomas Conley because of his name on the park, but they knew very little, if anything, about the man and his music. I wanted them to know that, with perseverance, dreams can become a reality even though they may come from a small town in Appalachia and that their family may endure financial hardships and trials.”
All of the artists who are performing at this concert, are donating their time and talent to the concert. All proceeds from the concert will be given to the Earl Thomas Scholarship Fund
Tickets are on sale at the high school and are $15 for general admission, $12 for seniors and $10 for students. Besides the PWHS Choir, other performers are Ricky Ferrell, Ronda Conley-Hodges, Tommy Montgomery, Caitlin Russell, Justin Wiget and Josh Stewart.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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