Ann George of Loretto has sung in choirs her entire adult life, but she almost never would have sung in a choir at all if one music teacher in grade school had her way, George recalled.
George, who this year will celebrate her 35th year as director of the local chapter of Sweet Adelines International, also remembered it was the first and only time her mother ever went to the school to have words with a teacher about her daughter.
The problem was that George had a deeper voice than most of the other girls, and she wanted to sing harmony, not melody.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Ann George directs the Sweet Adelines during a rehearsal at the Jaggard Street United Methodist Church in?Altoona. George has been directing the singing group for 35 years.
That didn't fit in with the music teacher's plans, and she told George she couldn't be in the school choir.
For a child who loved to sing and whose mother and grandfather both sang in church choirs, the news was hard to take.
"Needless to say, the choir teacher devastated me,'' she said.
If you go
What: The Altoona Sweet Adelines perform "A Night in the Mall"
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10
Where: Altoona Area Junior High School auditorium
Details: Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students under age 17 if purchased in advance. Tickets are $1 more at the door. They can be purchased at all Thompson Pharmacy stores, from any chorus member or by calling Kathy at 943-2237. Groups of 20 or more are $10 each. For more information, go to the chorus'
website at www.altoonachorus.com.
But her mother's trip to the school apparently helped the teacher see things differently.
"The next day, I was in the choir,'' she said.
Just as her mother understood that girls can sing harmony, other women also realized that a blending of a range of voices in a "barbershop'' style was not just a type of singing that only men could perform.
It was 1945 in Tulsa, Okla., when the first Sweet Adelines group was created, a spin-off of the popular American barbershop quartet style of male singing, said fellow Sweet Adelines chorus member Mary Kay Parrish of Duncansville.
The barbershop style features four-part singing with the lead voice taking the melody, while the other parts such as the bass, baritone and tenor lines harmonize so that all blend into a perfect sound that is uniquely American, Parrish said.
She likened it to other musical genres born in the United States, such as jazz and square dancing. The name "Sweet Adeline'' came from the classic song of the same name.
"Perfection is what you're aiming for,'' Parrish said. "The chords have to ring true and blend just right.''
The Altoona chapter, which started in 1954, was the first Sweet Adelines chapter in Pennsylvania. Women range in age from 20 to 80, and although they come to sing, many are in the group for much more than that, said Parrish, who's been with the chorus for 40 years.
"It gets in your blood,'' she said. "There's the camaraderie and the friendships you make over the years. You come for the music and stay for the friends.''
When women first join the group they do have to audition, but mainly that's to see what type of voice they have and where they'll fit in the group, Parrish said. She stressed that no one should feel intimidated about joining the group if they lack musical training.
"Many of our members don't even read music,'' she said.
George, a retired school teacher who taught health and physical education, said she learned much from the educational seminars that Sweet Adelines International provides at its workshops. The organization - which also hosts competitions at all levels, several of which the local chapter has won in its size category - is a big supporter of women's' educational issues, Parrish and George said.
"That's why this organization has kept me interested for so many years, because I've been intrigued and challenged by all the educational opportunities that they've provided,'' George said.
Both women stressed a distinction between concerts and shows in the performances the chorus gives, saying the Sweet Adelines are definitely showstoppers.
"We don't give concerts,'' George said. "Concerts are where you announce songs and stand up and sing a song. We don't just stand up and sing a song; we perform almost a mini-play in the first half of our show.''
The chorus' repertoire ranges from traditional favorites such as "Get Me to The Church on Time,'' from the musical "My Fair Lady'' to pop songs like "I Will Survive'' and "It's Raining Men.''
"It's not all traditional barbershop music,'' said Parrish, who has served as assistant director for 12 years.
The chorus is inviting interested women to join them in two open rehearsals for their Dec. 11 holiday concert. The rehearsals will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 and Dec. 4. at the Jaggard Street United Methodist Church, Altoona, at 1801 Pleasant Valley Blvd.
Girls under 16 should be accompanied by an adult.