Nfld. & Labrador

Women-only barbershop chorus spreading the harmony

Ever sing in the shower? You're probably qualified for a lesson in acapella.

St. John's acapella group looking to celebrate 30 years of stereotype-smashing with free workshop

Barbershop choirs usually conjure images of men in striped suits, but these ladies are bending the stereotype. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

When you think of barbershop choirs, men in striped suits might come to mind.

But St. John's choir Newfound Sound has been challenging that image for nearly 30 years, and they're celebrating their longevity with a call for more members.

The only two requirements? That you're a woman, and that you can hold a note.

"We were thinking how can we celebrate and spread our craft, and our gift of singing, in the community and at the same time grow and preserve our chorus," said president Anna Tapper. "So we thought we would hold an open workshop in vocal training."

The lesson is open to girls and women over the age of 14 on Saturday, Feb. 16, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at 77 Charter Avenue in Pleasantville. Musical experience isn't required, said Newfound Sound member Anita Power-Taylor. 

"We we teach vocal training, we teach through audio," she said. "So you don't have to read music."

A little bit of practice, though, will help once it comes to actually singing in harmony.

"You do have to be able to hold a note because it's acapella, which means it's unaccompanied — you could be singing next to a person on either side of you who's singing a different part. So it's important for you to be able to carry your own notes," said Power-Taylor.

From soprano to baritone

A barbershop-style chorus needs a range of voices to function, Power-Taylor added.

"We're dealing with leaders who sing the melody line. Then we have the basses who are the foundation. Then we have the tenors, who we call the sparkle on top," she said. 

"Then the baritone, and the baritone is basically all the leftover notes," she added — meaning women are taking on the deeper ranges that a man would usually sing. 

They get around the pitch problem by blowing a pitch pipe to find a note that all 20 members can work with, she said.

Both Tapper and Power-Taylor have been with the group for nearly its entire existence. They've seen seniors in their 80s and 90s join in the group — mostly for the stress relief and fun.

"Singing keeps us young," Tapper said. "So I guess hopefully we're living proof."

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