Community Portrait

Proving that four-part harmony is great for gals, too

By: Michael Kirby
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Editor’s note: This is one in a series of community portraits published in this space Fridays. If you close your eyes and just listen it’s a blending of over 45 heavenly voices, each one distinctive but merged into one beautiful sound. Just sit and soak it in, let the music surround you. Try to pick out the four-part harmony. The bass low notes, the baritone just a little higher than the bass, the lead singing the melody, and the tenors singing the highest notes. Then open your eyes and see the ladies dressed in stylish costumes with the most beautiful smiles on their faces and the twinkle in their eyes. You’re at a performance of the Sierra Gold Chorus, a local chapter of the Sweet Adelines International, singing a cappella four-part harmony barbershop style songs. Sweet Adelines founder Edna Mae Anderson, who just wanted to be able to share in the fun that her husband was having singing in a barbershop quartet, started Sweet Adelines in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1945. Anderson’s new organization soon took off and chapters formed, blossoming to 1,500 members in 14 states over four years. Sweet Adelines International has since grown to include 25,000 members in countries all over the world. Today the mission of the group still rings true to what Anderson stated in 1945, “The original purpose for the organization of the Sweet Adelines is education, to teach and train its members in musical harmony and appreciation.” Newcastle resident Bev Rhoby joined the Sierra Gold Chorus, the local chapter of Sweet Adelines, 13 years ago, just four months after its inception. “I saw a little tiny blurb advertisement in the Newcastle paper at the time,” Rhoby said. “I’d been interested in singing for years, the timing was right; it’s in my blood now.” Rhoby always loved singing and sang with her father, who was a musician. “I’ve always sung and danced and done musical things. I didn’t want to stop but it kind of does when you’re raising children,” Rhoby said. “I wanted to get back into something I enjoyed.” Within the Sierra Gold Chorus Rhoby also participates in a double quartet, the Sierra Belles, that consists of eight people with two voices singing each of the four parts — bass, baritone, lead and tenor, just like the men’s barbershop quartets. “Our style is interesting. It’s all a cappella, there’s no musical instrument for accompaniment. “I love to sing, but I also like to perform for people and at the competitions when we’re up on the stage and the lights hit us, I just love it,” Rhoby said. “I don’t get scared or get stage fright.” The singers all have choreographed movements, accentuating their voices with their arms and facial expressions that add to the excitement of the performances. “We’re encouraged to perform our movements, and it makes it more exciting. We’re not a church choir,” Rhoby said. “It takes a special person to be a Sweet Adeline.” The Sierra Gold Chorus performs two year-end Christmas concerts with funds raised going to help with chorus expenses. The group is self-supporting and money raised at the concerts is used to finance costumes, travel expenses, sound system equipment and other needed items. The chorus also entertains at rest homes and retirement communities throughout the year and participates in yearly competitions. Watching the women perform, it’s easy to see their enjoyment as their voices blend in four-part harmony. Rhoby is encouraged in her endeavors by her husband, Rick. “He doesn’t sing a lick but he is very supportive,” Rhoby said. Rhoby has made her home in Newcastle for 25 years and worked at the Rite Aid pharmacy in Auburn for 23 years.