Chorus members display their safety riser backs. From left are Dee Dumais, Cathy Anderson, Betty Avery, Candace Pepin, BJ Pellett, Lea Davis and Dotti Meyer. Photo courtesy of Maine-ly Harmony.

AUGUSTA — 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, fundraisers, Valentine greetings to individuals, the list goes on and on.

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. So teacher Bob Stewart at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center and his students added riser bars across the back to keep them safe, according to a news release from Lea Davis of Maine-ly Harmony.

Lewiston Regional Technical Center teacher Bob Stewart and students Justin Merrill, Caleb Anthony, Griffin Johnson, Connor Sullivan, Daniel Bolton, Garrett Sampson, Joe Cloutier and Corey Wires. Photo courtesy of Dee Dumais.

Chorus member and former Lewiston High School teacher Dee Dumais contacted the tech center 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, Stewart 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 the 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, according to the release.

Some issues involved pipe bending, he said, which had to be very specific, as well as reworking dimensions, sizing and measurements. The work also involved 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 Stewart 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 students adding much labor to the finishing touches.

Students who participated in the project were Caleb Anthony, Daniel Bolton, Joe Cloutier, Griffin Johnson, Justin Merrill, Garrett Sampson, Connor Sullivan and Corey Wires. Stewart 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, according to the release.

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. Stewart is only the second instructor of the program, hired in 2005 to replace retiring long-term instructor Rene Chicoine,  according to the release.

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