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April 13, 2004

Herald Tribune

They sing, shimmer, sway, shuck and jive, all 60 of them, poised on six-foot risers like a glittering store display of diamond- laden Mother's Day pendants: The Sweet Adelines are in the house.

Tonight is dress rehearsal for the Venetian Harmony Chapter of the Sweet Adelines International, a prelude to state competitions in Orlando, where they'll be joining 16 other groups from around the state on April 23. Last year, the group took first place in the mid-sized chorus division. The rehearsal is open free to the public. "It's kind of a gift to the community," says director PollyAnn Nanafito, who took charge of the barbershop-style singing group five years ago.

A retired schoolteacher, Nanafito began singing with the Sweet Adelines 26 years at the suggestion of a friend from her Connecticut church choir. "Used to be women joined just for something to do to get out of the house," says Nanafito, who points out that half the group are working women. "Now it's more out of a passion for singing and performing rather than an escape." A relative newcomer to the group, O'Connell showed up at a rehearsal last August on her 50th birthday after moving to North Port from her Massachusetts home just two months earlier. "It was the best thing I've ever done for myself," she says.

The members of the Venice group, who come from as far away as Bradenton and Punta Gorda, rehearse 31/2 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. Betty Jean Neyedly has been a member of the group since its inception 21 years ago. "It's a terrific experience," says the retired schoolteacher and North Port resident. "Especially if you've got a little ham in you." Group member Elaine Squires thinks maybe some people still think of the Adelines as a bunch of women standing ramrod straight, hands to their sides singing the oldies. "It's not like that anymore," says the 60-something former real estate agent. "We put on a show -- and a lively and exciting one at that."

Posted by acapnews at April 13, 2004 8:36 AM

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