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More than a hundred shivering singers show up for national anthem auditions

More than 100 people lined up in the stands of Coca-Cola Field on Saturday, waiting to vie for the chance to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a Buffalo Bisons game.

The audition was held in anything-but-baseball weather.

The sun was out and the sky was a deep blue – so far, so good – but snow blanketed the outfield, and the infield was underwater.

The temperature? With the windchill factor, it felt like 11 degrees.

That made it hard to imagine that the Bisons home opener, on April 9, was less than two weeks away.

“It was fun to come, it was cold outside, it was a long wait, but I did it,” said Ashleigh Maciejewski, who sings in her college chorale at Canisius College. She came, she said, because her father has asked her to try out for years.

The parents of Mary John, a ninth-grader at Lancaster High School, also encouraged her to audition.

“I was pretty nervous, and a little freezing, but it was really fun,” Mary said.

Girls and young women were predominant, but plenty of children and adults – including a spry 74-year-old man with a deep baritone – answered the call. The Orchard Park Middle School Select Choir also auditioned.

Each performance was recorded from a position about 30 rows behind home plate, with the applicants singing portions of the United States and Canadian national anthems a cappella.

“I love to sing. I just love to sing,” said Catie Raess, who waited in line for 1½ hours before singing a traditional version of the U.S. national anthem, raising eyebrows in the process. The Lancaster resident sang it last year before the start of a Batavia Muckdogs game, and hopes to do the same in Buffalo.

The audition was the second in a month for Tina Houston McCrea. The Burgard High School social worker also auditioned in Chicago for “The Voice.”

“It’s a dream I have,” McCrea said.

It was the third go-around at Coca-Cola Field for Jerrell Moss, 74. No stranger to auditions, he tried out for the Flamingos, a doo-wop group in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, back in 1971.

It was the first audition for 54-year-old Mark Webster of Lake View.

“I’ve been singing in my car for years, and I finally decided that I wanted to see if I could do it here,” Webster said.

Children also gave it a whirl. Hannah Freundel, who takes singing lessons at the Academy of Theater Arts, an afterschool program in Williamsville, was back for a second year. Her mother, Shoshanna, was quick to say Hannah, 9, didn’t get her vocal aptitude from mom.

“I’m a scientist, and I have no musical talent whatsoever,” Freundel laughed, before adding that there were several generations of opera singers on Hannah’s maternal grandfather’s side.

Emma Penders, also 9 and a student at West Seneca Elementary School, was back for a second try, too.

Asked if she was nervous, she said simply, “No. Cold.”