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February 10, 2010

Sisterhood of Song

American Profile (US):

One collective breath after Michelle Hunget blows into a pitch pipe to set the key of B-flat, her Kansas-based quartet launches into "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," blending voices in rich a cappella harmony to perform the lively barbershop-style standard.

"Never could carry a tune, never knew where to start," sing members of the group Zing! on their way to being named the world's top quartet of Sweet Adelines International during the singing organization's 2009 competition last October in Nashville, Tenn. The tenor voice of Hunget, 44, of Olathe, Kan., resonates with the vocals of lead singer Susan Ives, 51, of Tecumseh, Kan.; baritone Mary Rhea, 52, of Norman, Okla.; and bass Melynnie Williams, 50, of Newton, Kan., resulting in a sound called "ringing the chords"—when voices blend to create overtones, almost as if a complete chorus is on the stage.

But it's just four women wearing matching smiles and lime-green outfits, from their retro paisley tops to bejeweled necklines and crystal earrings, combining their vocals and showmanship to earn the title of Queens of Harmony, with accompanying crowns.

The honor is the reward for taking turns rehearsing in each other's hometowns every other weekend for the last year, during which the women perfected their vocal harmonies while forging lifelong friendships. "You can't make harmony with people you don't like," Rhea says.

Using their voices as instruments, Sweet Adelines have showcased a distinctly American style of four-part a cappella singing for 65 years and serenaded audiences at venues ranging from retirement homes to Carnegie Hall—all while building a sisterhood of women who love to sing.

Those bonds have been nurtured since July 13, 1945, when Edna Mae Anderson of Tulsa, Okla., invited a few women to her home to sing together with the same "chord-ringing, fun-filled harmony" that their husbands enjoyed as members of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, known today as the Barbershop Harmony Society. That core group of women invited all "barbershop wives" in the area to assemble a few weeks later at the Hotel Tulsa, where the men had formed their organization six years earlier. There, a Sweet Adelines chapter of 85 women was born. Read more.

This magazine is inserted in newspapers across the country and has a print run in the millions. This is the cover story in this week's issue.

Posted by acapnews at February 10, 2010 12:05 AM

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