Women’s Chorus Hits a High Note

By Sandra Zunino

After three years of practicing, organizing and gathering members, the Harmony by the Bay women’s barbershop chorus finally achieves official Sweet Adelines Status.

Veteran barbershop singers Suzy Wishard and Claudia Horney founded Harmony by the Bay after traveling weekly over the Bay Bridge for years to sing in a Sweet Adelines chorus in Annapolis. “I’m so happy,” says Suzy. “We worked hard because we knew it was needed here.”

Sweet Adelines International is one of the world’s largest singing organizations for women. While barbershop quartet is usually associated with male voices, in 1945 Edna Mae Anderson of Tulsa, Oklahoma brought a few women together to sing four-part harmony thus opening barbershop quartet to women’s voices.

“We had to have a representative come out and listen to the group sing in order to obtain the charter,” explains Suzy, “Sweet Adelines have a reputation to uphold and a group is not allowed to use the name if they are not good enough.”

Prior to the charter, the group was deemed a prospective chorus. One challenge was obtaining 15 members to commit to regularly scheduled practices. Then each singer had to know her part and sing on key. Not only does singing a cappella – without accompaniment by musical instrument, leave little room for error, singing a different part from a nearby voice without getting thrown off key is also a challenge.

“When you have a small chorus such is this, it is that much harder for everyone to sound perfect,” admits Suzy. “It’s not easy so you must practice.”

While the party is still in its planning phases, Harmony on the Bay members will be presented the Sweet Adelines Charter on July 24 at Christ Church Parish. “This is a big thing,” says Suzy. “We will invite other choruses from the region and go all out.”

Coincidentally, July 24 is the third anniversary of the day Suzy placed a newspaper ad inviting singers to try out for the chorus.
In April, the chorus will travel to Ocean City to compete in the annual Region 19 Sweet Adelines Contest. “This is our first time participating in the contest,” says Suzy, “We are so excited we can’t stand ourselves!”

To help defray some of the competition costs, the group is raffling a wine box filled with fine wines, spirits and gourmet items. Tickets are now available for $1 each, six for $5. The drawing will be on March 13.

In addition to raising funds for the chorus, Harmony by the Bay held a “Queen for a Day” fundraiser last September to benefit the Shore Health Regional Breast Center in Easton. This year’s Queen for a Day will benefit the local food bank. “Every year, we want to do something to give back to the community,” says Suzy.

In fact, Harmony by the Bay will perform in May at the Tidewater Inn as part of a Cancer Society benefit, according to Suzy. On May 4, they will hold an open house inviting the public to learn about Sweet Adelines and listen to women’s barbershop chorus. Still seeking a venue, the open house location will be announced later.

For more information about the Harmony by the Bay Sweet Adeline Chorus, raffle tickets, membership and engagements, contact Claudia at 410-924-0013 or Suzy at 410-758-1092.