October 17, 2013

Sweet Adelines turn 45

By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Champlain Valley Chorus of the Sweet Adelines celebrates its 45th anniversary season this weekend at the Strand Theater.

The barbershop-style chorus and its quartets, Notes of Accord and the Meter Maids, present an evening of a cappella music.

“Also joining us is the Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble,” said Diane Sabourin, show co-chairperson with Carla Brassard.

“They sing a cappella music from the Renaissance. They will be singing a portion of the concert. During the day at the concert, a group of area young ladies ages 12 to 25 are working with a director and singing barbershop music. They will be singing with us that evening. I think there are 30 girls signed up. They are being called Sweet Expectation. We hope this will be an annual event.”

The show’s theme is celebrate.

“We’re celebrating a cappella music and our accomplishments through the years,” Sabourin said. “Our latest one was in the spring when we returned from the regional competition and received the award as Most Improved. We’re singing a variety of songs with a true barbershop sound and then some more modern music that has been arranged in barbershop style. The young girls will be having fun doing ‘Dancing Queen.’ So, there will be a real variety of music.”

George Schnob was instrumental in the Sweet Adelines’ formation.

“He met with Phil (Bernard) and her husband, Lou Bernard, with the idea of starting a female barbershop group,” Sabourin said. “She got out an all call for ladies, and they met at her house, and that’s how they all started, according to Mr. Schnob. He was the first director.”

The Sweet Adelines were 28 in the beginning and quickly grew to 48 members.

“At one time, they had as many as five quartets in the group,” Sabourin said. “In 1970, I don’t know which came first, the five quartets or this award, the mayor of Plattsburgh, who was Francis Steltzer, proclaimed the week of Oct. 19 as Harmony Week in honor of the Sweet Adelines.”

The Sweet Adelines is part of an international organization.

“The chapter itself is the Champlain Valley Chorus, which is part of Sweet Adelines International,” Sabourin said. “I’ve only been in it a year and half. I was reading on the international website that the men’s group already existed, and the women’s group grew out of the men gathering in the barbershop and singing.”

The wives of the Barbershoppers, the male counterpart, accompanied them to practice, had time on their hands and were looking for something to do.

“One woman directed her own thing for the wives, and that’s how the international thing got started. It got started based on the men’s group but with the women looking for something similar,” Sabourin said.

A barbershop quartet consists of four voices.

“With the tenor being the highest voice, the lead being the second voice that usually has the melody, and the baritone like an alto voice in a conventional chorus, and the bass is alto 2,” she said.

In the women’s configuration, a soprano is either a tenor or lead.

“Currently, we have 18,” Sabourin said. “Phil Bernard is still an active member. She’s been in it the entire 45 years. We have another member who’s been in it 43 years. That’s Bonnie Varno.”

A retired music educator, Sabourin used to play French horn.

“I had to give that up for health reasons, and I really wanted something to do,” she said. “I went to one rehearsal. I liked the style of music they were singing. I’ve been going ever since.”

Many of the vocalists don’t read music.

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IF YOU GO WHAT: Sweet Adelines 45th Anniversary Show with Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble and Sweet Expectation. WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday. WHERE: Strand Theater, 25 Brinkerhoff St., Plattsburgh. ADMISSION: $10 general admission and $8 seniors/students.