Those who know me understand that music and singing have been a crucial part of my life and are both something I can’t live without. Ever since I was little, I have sung in church choirs, school choirs, regional choirs and, even to this day, in my own personal shower choir (featuring me, myself and I). For the last four years, I have been singing tenor (the highest harmony part) with York Highlands Chorus (YHC); an award-winning A Capella chorus that performs four-part barbershop harmony.
No matter your vocal range, barbershop allows all singers to feel part of the group because there are four different parts to barbershop harmony. The Lead sings the melody line; the Tenor (in my opinion, the best part) sings the higher harmony; the Bass sings the low melody line and the Baritone fills in the sound singing from high to low. Each part is very different from the next but, when combined a beautiful harmony that couldn’t exist without each key piece is created.
YHC, chartered in 1970, is one of 500 choruses within Sweet Adeline’s International (SAI), a “worldwide organization of women singers committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education, competition and performance,” as described by the organization’s online About page. SAI consists of over 30,000 members across all five continents, and is one of the world’s largest singing organizations for women.
Under the direction of Martha DeClerq (yes, she is my mother, as you can tell by our uncanny resemblance in the photo pictured to the right), YHC rehearses every Tuesday night from 7:00-10:00pm at the Sharon-Hope United Church in Sharon, ON, a two minute drive from Newmarket. We sing all genres of music including the classics, Broadway, swing and even current Top 40 hits.
Not only do we perform in our own Christmas concerts and spring shows, but we also compete every year in the Annual Regional Competition in Syracuse, NY. This weekend (May 2nd through to May 4th, 2014) we’re heading down to Syracuse to compete against 20 other chorus and quartets in our Region. Saturday, YHC will compete against other mid-sized choruses in the AA division. Wish us luck!
I joined YHC because I realized at a young age that singing was a huge passion of mine. The SAI community focuses on the education behind barbershop style singing, something I also love. The Young Women in Harmony program, for example, teaches girls under the age of 25 the craft of four-part barbershop style.
I met Sarah Pippy, another young member who joined YHC in 2010, at workshops a part of the Young Women in Harmony program. Both Sarah and I loved the performance opportunities that SAI had to offer.
“My favourite part about singing with YHC is being in the front row,” Sarah says. “This allows me to be more expressive in my performance by incorporating advanced choreography. Not only is it fun to perform, but it is interesting for the audience to watch, as well.”
When I first joined, I was very one-dimensional. I stood on the risers and sang. Since most choirs tell you to “just sing,” the idea of emoting and performing took me by surprise. SAI promotes both vocal and visual techniques. By adding in movement, character and visuals to a song, the audience responds to the music changes. Sometimes, this can lead people to tears, while other times, you have to work to get a laugh.
I have thoroughly enjoyed adding these dimensions to my singing and am proud to say these lessons have led me to my current position as YHC’s choreographer. Myself, along with my team, come up with the choreo and teach it to the chorus. As choreographer, I work with the Music Team. We meet bi-monthly to discuss the chorus and where we see the musical plan going.
Sarah says others should join SAI because it provides a variety of opportunities and experiences. Within each chorus, there are many positions and committees in which to take part, such as show committees, management teams and music teams. In short, most members get a lot more out of being part of a chorus than simply strengthening their vocal skills. The skills we learn within extracurricular groups, like the SAI, can easily be applied to the working world. This past March, Sarah and I co-chaired our spring show. Working alongside our committee, we were able to put on a successful show with a DJ, dancing, a silent auction, a cash bar and more.
YHC is available for performances all around the GTA. Our widespread repertoire can delight music lovers of all ages. Visitors are always welcome, and we encourage you to drop by! For more information feel free to visit our website or contact Cheryl Yaciuk, at 905-895-5595, or Pat Blake, at email@example.com.
You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: @yorkhighlandschorus.
All photos not marked “courtesy of” were taken by myself.