In today’s AV Press … pages A3 & A4 – click here is you have an online subscription to the AV Press for the rest of the article and pictures~ http://www.avpress.com/article-detail.php?articles_id=26659715
By: Rich Breault
Love, peace and harmony.
Twenty-six women, numerous notes, four parts, one voice – that’s the Antelope Valley Showcase Chorus, the local chapter of Sweet Adelines International.
Directed by Kira Wagner, the chorus sings barbershop harmony, an American musical art form adopted by the Sweet Adelines.
“The art form came around the late 1800s,” Wagner said while singers warmed up their voices at a Tuesday night rehearsal at Angel Hall in Palmdale. “To be true barbershop, certain chords have to be in there. Some modern chords can’t be.
“In barbershop, the melody is inside, not on top like in choral music.”
A style of a cappella singing, barbershop harmony is made up of four parts – lead, tenor, baritone and bass. The goal of Sweet Adelines is to advance the art form harmony through education and performance.
With performance also being educational, the local chorus does just that – having captured first place in Division A Small Chorus and fifth place in overall Chorus at the Regional No. 11 Competition in 2010 and 2011.
“It’s hard work, but we love it,” three-year chorus member Dottie Zager said. “I’d been singing for a long time in church choirs and continental singers when I was younger. I kept seeing an ad in the paper about this chorus.
“I went to a performance and finally decided it was time to join after listening to them. It felt really weird, but I liked it.”
“That’s because it’s about being one sound,” Wagner said. “If you hear individual singers, it means they’re just starting out. If you hear the parts, they’re getting the art.
“If you hear just one voice, that’s the art. And that’s a challenge because everyone has to be in everyone else’s head.”
Linda Ninekirk – who joined the chorus in 1975, was the director for several years and is an assistant director along with Linda Agner – said, “Singing barbershop is a big change when you’re used to choral singing with accompaniment.
“Harmony just sounds different. Getting one voice is hard because the members’ voices are so different. You have to keep working at it. It doesn’t come very easily.”
Building the sound
Wagner said barbershop, like an orchestra, has its widest sound coming from its lowest instrument.
“We’re building the base, the foundation, with the bass,” she said.
Typically, the lead sings the melody, tenors harmonize above the lead, bass harmonizes with the lowest notes and the baritone
“The baritone is asking parts and notes left over,” said Ninekirk, who sings baritone. “We don’t mind because they’re often very juicy parts.
“Baritones really have to like harmony. They’re a very integral part of the chord.”
Diagrammed, barbershop sound is conical, Wagner said – with a full bass sound at the bottom, tenors at the top, leads and baritones in the middle.
“Without any one of them, it’s glee club or sacred music,” she said. “If the melody is on top, it’s a cappella, but it’s not barbershop. There’s nothing like it.”
Agner, a member for almost 24 years, said barbershop is unique.
“When I first moved to the Valley, I was looking for a place to sing other than a church choir. And I was looking for friends,” said Agner, who found both with the chorus. “I had heard men’s barbershop but had never sung barbershop before. There’s so much involved to sing it correctly. It was quite an eye-opener – you have to blend with everyone around you.”
The ultimate goal of any barbershop group is what’s known as the “lock and ring effect,” the ring being an unsung fifth overtone that, when achieved, gives listeners goose bumps.
It requires good musical arrangement and vocal technique, well-balanced and blended voices, and accuracy of intonation.
Wagner said growing up singing solos in musical theater, she could change something while singing and no one would know.
“But if you do that here, we’re screwed,” she said. “We either win together or take a dive together. It’s about one voice, and if anyone forgets that
“We can’t have singers fighting for that spotlight. It’s about peace within ourselves and our product.”
When that’s achieved, harmony is the result. When the harmony is locked in, then comes the ring.
Oh, what a feeling
Wagner said AV Showcase Chorus always seeks new members.
“The bottom line is ‘Can you sing the Birthday Song?’ If you can, I can work with you,” Wagner said. “If not, I would recommend some private lessons first.
Zagar said although the majority of chorus members live in the Antelope Valley, some come from Victor Valley, Tehachapi, Santa Clarita and other nearby areas.
“We invite anyone who thinks she wants to join, to come by and watch a rehearsal to see if it’s for you,” Zagar said.
For details about Antelope Valley Showcase Chorus, go to www.avshowcasechorus.com or call (661) 878-AVSC (2872).