Singing a capella is a bit like eating chocolate, says Linda Liddle, a charter member of the Chord Spinners chorus. Like chocolate, it’s sweet and uplifting and a treat for the senses.
“It makes you feel good and wonderful. The weight of the world goes away. Same thing when you come to sing barbershop.”
The ladies of the St. Jacobs-based barbershop chorus, the Chord Spinners, certainly know how to spin a sweet tune, and they’ll be taking those joyful harmonies with them to the provincial women’s barbershop contest next month, with an eye to performing at the internationals later this year.
“We sing two songs in the competition,” says Kathy Hanneson, chorus director. “We’re singing When You Wish Upon a Star, which is the one that we did last year; it’s something that’s familiar to most audiences. And then this year we’re learning a new song to go with that, the one that we just sang called It’s a Good Day. So they’re both very uplifting message songs.”
The Ontario contest is run under the umbrella of the international not-for-profit Harmony, Inc., which supports womens’ barbershop and a capella choruses in Canada and U.S. In Ontario alone, there are 16 registered chapters with Harmony, from the local Chord Spinners to the Nickel City Sound in Sudbury and the Capital Chordettes of Ottawa.
The Ontario groups will be performing on May 24-26 in Scarborough, where they will have to wow judges enough to advance to the 2019 Sandusky Harmony Inc. International Convention and Contests.
“There’ll be 15 choruses in the competition, and they’re from all over Ontario. And if we achieve a certain score, then we are eligible to go onto the next level of competition, which is an international competition,” explained Hanneson. “It’ll be held in the states, in Ohio this year so it’s fairly close to home, and then that will be 25 of the top scoring choruses that compete there. So that’s what we’re shooting for to be able to go onto the next level of the competition.”
While the Chord Spinners will be aiming high, the group contends the joys of singing are in the act itself. The group rehearses weekly at the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church on Monday’s, enjoying good company and arguably one of the most buoyant forms of music out there.
“You can come here with a headache and feeling like work was so overwhelming, and you get here and it all goes away,” says Liddle, who is the last member of the original Chord Spinners which were founded in 1981. “You’re here with your sisters, with your barbershop family, and everything goes away. It feels wonderful, absolutely wonderful. And you leave here in such a good mood compared to when you arrived. It’s really good for the soul.”
“And there is something about the a capella singing where it’s just our voices blending with each other that creates something more than the sum of its parts,” adds Hanneson. “It’s a bigger sound than just the voices that are singing. To be a part of that is very exciting.”
But fun aside, the Chord Spinners are serious when it comes to self-improvement and bettering the chorus. And because the entire performance hinges on creating pitch-perfect harmonies, using voice alone to create layers of sound that build off each other, it’s an art that requires a lot of practice and refinement.
Still, like eating a bar of chocolate, the end result is almost guaranteed to make people smile.
“One of the things I notice about barbershop, you can be the smallest choir on stage or you can be the biggest choir,” says Sheila Schmidt, president of the Chord Spinners. “The audience applauds you and is thrilled for you. You can make boo-boos or whatever, they still outpour that clapping and love.”
The Chord Spinners will be preparing for their upcoming contest in Scarborough next month, but the group is always happy to accept newcomers hoping to lend their voice at their weekly practices at the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, which run on Monday evenings at 7 p.m.