By AMY HEGGEN
---- — PLATTSBURGH ― The Champlain Valley Sweet Adelines, a women’s a capella group from Plattsburgh, was recently awarded the Most Improved Chorus Award at a regional competition in Springfield, Mass.
“We were recognized as the chorus that was most improved,” said Cherie LaDuke, the chorus director. “That meant our score was most improved over the score from last year.”
LaDuke said it was a surreal experience when their name was called for the award April 27.
“When they bring the directors on stage, they give this award first. And to hear Champlain Valley Chorus, it was pretty cool,” LaDuke said. “It was just amazing to be that little chorus that gets recognized.”
Part of an international group called Sweet Adelines International, the Champlain Valley Chorus was the smallest group of the 14 that attended the Region 1 Sweet Adelines International Competition. Other choruses averaged between 30 and 45 singers, which is twice that of Champlain Valley Chorus, LaDuke said.
The entire group participated in this year’s competition, as the minimum requirement is 15 singers in addition to the director. In order to meet the requirement, LaDuke joined the group on the risers as a singer, and Ken Hughes, the chorus’s coach, directed the group for the competition.
“It was a neat opportunity for me to be able to get back on the risers and sing with all the ladies,” LaDuke said.
Hughes participates with the chorus about once a month, so it made sense for him to direct for the competition, LaDuke said.
The Champlain Valley Chorus likes to start practicing before the holiday season for the competition, but this year they started working on the pieces in January.
“We came in with the attitude of ‘We’re going to work hard, and we’re going to sing right,’” LaDuke said.
The group focuses on the foundational skills of barbershop singing, such as breathing exercises and unison singing.
“We’re not all experts in music. You don’t have to be able to read music or be able to play piano,” LaDuke said.
Weena Boyle, a member of the Champlain Valley Chorus for two years, said their ultimate goal was to win Most Improved Chorus, so they practiced the basics.
“The judging criteria are vocal skills, accuracy, artistic sound,” Boyle said. “We knew what we were going to be judged on, and we worked hard on those things.”
Boyle said all choruses in the competition sing an upbeat tune and a slower song.
“One is called a ballad, and one is called an uptune,” Boyle said.
The chorus sang “L-O-V-E,” a song made popular by Nat King Cole, and “My Wonderful One,” the first song that the Champlain Valley Chorus ever learned.
“We did it to recognize the 45th anniversary of the chorus, because our 45th year will be in December … so that’s a neat tribute,” LaDuke said.
The chorus is excited to receive free coaching as a prize for winning the award.
The group already plans on attending next year’s regional competition, as they compete almost every year, LaDuke said.
TO LEARN MORE
For more information about the Champlain Valley Sweet Adelines, visit www.champlainvalleychorus.org.