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Frequently Asked Membership Questions

What is barbershop harmony?
Barbershop harmony is unaccompanied, four part a cappella harmony.  It is a traditional American art form with roots in African-American gospel, blues and jazz.

What makes it sound so different from choral music?
Barbershop harmony IS unique!  The melody is “inside” the chord with the harmonies above and below the melody.   The barbershop sound is “cone” shaped, with dominance in the lower voices and the higher voices singing with less weight and intensity.  The barbershop sound is characterized by unique chords called “barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh” chords which often produce an overtone or “ring”.  Barbershop up-tempo songs are sung with a high degree of physical and vocal energy, ballads are famous for creative musical/lyrical interpretation and physical expression.  Barbershop arrangers use embellishments as “swipes,” countermelodies, bell chords and repeats, with the body of the song between a verse or “intro” and a “tag,” which is a barbershop song’s big finish. Harmony Weekend 2008

What do I need to be able to do to sing barbershop harmony?
1)  You need to be able to sing accurately: in tune and eventually the correct notes, words and breaths since our music is memorized.  You’ll be given lots of time, tools and opportunities to do that, including sheet music, learning tapes and weekly section rehearsals.
2)  You need to be able to eventually hold your own part… even when you are standing near someone who is singing a different part.  And that’s the fun of singing harmony!
3) You need to be able to blend your voice with those around you and be an “ensemble singer.”  You do this by listening, matching your voice quality with the ensemble, controlling things like vibrato which would make your voice dominant or make it stand out. 

Is there a formal audition?
Not, not usually.  In almost every case we can determine whether you qualify musically for membership by listening to you as you sing on the risers and in section rehearsals.

What part should I sing? Friends

If your range is similar to an alto (and most popular singers on the radio) and you like to sing melody, “LEAD” will be the part for you.  Lead voices are usually strong with character and authority. If you have a similar range but prefer harmony, you should try “BARITONE.”  Baritone is often thought to be the most challenging part to learn and sing as there is less predictability in their part and the tuning of the entire chord often depends upon adjustments made by the baritone.  “TENOR” harmonizes above the lead, but the vocal quality of the tenor singer is clear and “bell-like.”  Our “BASS” singers provide the foundation for the chord, and have rich, deep, resonant voices.

What is the Voices in Harmony chorus like?
Voices in Harmony is a warm and inclusive team of women who thrive on singing, learning, friendship and fun.   Guests and new members are often in awe at how quickly and easily they transition from “rookie” to a confident and accomplished singer and contributor.

What is my time commitment as a chorus member?
No chorus activity is mandatory, but most members participate in everything they can!

  • Rehearsals: are year-round on Tuesdays from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  There is an annual Saturday coaching session, a one-hour personal voice lesson which you will do with a partner and our vocal coach. Occasionally a section may hold an “away-from-rehearsal” section rehearsal when it's needed.
  • Performances: Private and public performances are scheduled occasionally throughout the year based on member availability.  Members enjoy them and participate when they can.
  • Competition: is every spring in Cleveland, Ohio.  Virtually all members join us in this exciting learning experience that enriches us as individuals and strengthens our relationships as team members and friends.  Members planning to compete should attend rehearsals regularly and plan to attend the Storer retreat which falls about six weeks prior to contest.
  • Regional Music Schools: “Harmony Weekends” are offered by our Sweet Adeline Region #17 in the fall and winter at hotels in Huron, Perrysburg and Independence Ohio.  They’re great!
  • Social Activities: VIH organizes many away-from-rehearsal activities to help members strengthen their relationships and involve their families in the chorus experience. There is literally something for everyone! Camping, bonfires, Tiger baseball games... and more!
  • Fundraisers: VIH is fortunate to staff a refreshment booth at the U-M football games.  This is a high energy and fun activity with a huge financial return which keeps members expenses much lower than most hobbies.  Most members work 2 games per year. Other funds are raised through Singing Christmas Cards, performances and various sales.

What does it cost to be a member?
A one-time payment of $90.00 will make you a member of Sweet Adelines International, Region #17 and the Voices in Harmony.  Monthly dues of $26.00 are paid to the chorus by cash, check or Pay Pal on the chorus website.  Members 25 or younger pay half of the regular registration fee and dues.  Dues and additional chorus fundraisers cover most member expenses, including chorus costumes, competition registration and breakfast, music, director expenses, coaching, a complimentary annual private voice lesson and fees related to the rehearsal hall. 

What other expenses can I expect?
Personal clothing items, shoes, make up, travel, lodging, meals at music schools and competition are paid by the member.  There is a modest $10.00 fee for music schools and a $70.00 fee for the annual VIH weekend retreat at the YMCA Storer Camp in Napoleon, MI.  We are a non-profit 501 C3 educational organization, so some things associated with membership are tax deductible.

How is the chorus run and managed?
By the members!  Leadership teams are comprised of volunteers who staff our Music and Management Teams and teams such as the Visual Team, Costume Team and Membership Team who handle specific chorus business.  There is opportunity for involvement, personal growth and achievement in many musical and administrative areas. 

When can I join?
Right away!  As soon as we can determine you are musically capable of learning how to sing barbershop harmony you can fill out your membership application and your check!

Learn more about SAI Region #17
Learn more about Sweet Adelines International


Sweet Adeline International
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Voices in Harmony Chorus… where everybody knows your name!