by Deacon Tom Picciano
Sun contributing writer

JOHNSON CITY —- Charlie Hyland is a student with a cause…using his vocal talent to help feed the hungry. Hyland, a senior vocal performance major at Catholic University, will perform his third annual recital this Sunday, July 19 at St. James Church. As in previous years, there’s no admission charge. But all who attend are asked to consider making an offering of cash or non-perishable food items for the Catholic Charities food pantry in Binghamton.

At the end of freshman year at the university, Hyland’s voice teacher encouraged him to give a recital over the summer “to keep my voice active and give me some experience, and to do it for a charity of some sort — he said that people are much more willing to give money for a good cause than just to see someone sing, and he seems to have been right so far.”

Hyland didn’t have to look far for a charity. He’d started helping at the pantry after his sophomore year at Seton Catholic Central High School. Initially, his parents put him to work there after he “did something stupid” and got into trouble. But he continued there when his “sentence” was completed.

It’s an experience that allowed Hyland to learn about the problem of hunger first-hand.

“Before I started working at Catholic Charities, I saw homelessness as something that only happened in big cities, but it’s not. Hunger and poverty are everywhere, and they aren’t just going to go away by themselves,” he emphasized.

“The message that I’m trying to send with my recitals is that these are real problems and they are affecting people around us, and we all have to pitch in somehow or other — even if it’s just by listening to some music and donating a little money or food.”

Over the past two summers, the recitals have raised thousand of dollars and lots of non-perishable food. And because of Hyland’s performances in a number of places in Broome County over the last few years, he has quite a following.

“Working at the pantry and stocking shelves is frequently hard work, especially on a busy day but singing is pretty much just pure fun,” Hyland said. “It’s nice to know that I can still help out, even if I don’t have the time to dedicate to working in the pantry itself.”

The recital will be a mix of pieces, including works by Vivaldi, Vaughan Williams, Faure, Brahms and Cole Porter. ”Since I’m performing in a church, Father Donovan told me to steer clear of the Seven Deadly Sins,” he added, “so that means that I can’t sing the Mephistopheles aria from Faust or pretty much anything from Don Giovanni.”

Other featured performers include Jan DeAngelo, who will provide piano accompaniment, and perhaps his voice teacher Pasquale Arcodia. Hyland’s father will accompany him for any Irish tunes at the recital. His parents Brian and Peggy are both accomplished singers and musicians.

“The fact that I have musical parents means that I’ve been singing pretty much ever since I could talk — possibly even before,” Hyland said. “They have always encouraged me with my singing, and when I told them that this was what I wanted to go to school for, they didn’t even bat an eye. They’re just about the most supportive parents one could ask for.”

He’s fresh off a tour in Prague with the Catholic University chorus, where the group sang Verdi’s Requiem at the site of the former Terezin concentration camp. Also, Hyland is planning beyond graduation next year. He will continue with graduate school for vocal performance.

Hyland wants to focus on feeding the hungry. “The main tragedy of hunger in our area is that so much of it is preventable. It’s easy to think, ‘I’m just one person; I can’t make a difference on my own, so why even try?’ The truth is, though, that even the smallest effort or donation can make a great difference in someone’s life,” Hyland said.

The Vocal Recital by Charlie Hyland, to benefit Catholic Charities food pantry will be held on Sunday, July 19. It begins at 7 p.m. at St. James Church, 147 Main St., Johnson City.

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