Arts : Beware Adelines bearing sweets

Oh, sure, female barbershop quartets sound harmless ...

Come on, I know I’m not the only one imagining a glazed pastry army, with each phyllo-dough soldier of Stay-Puft Marshmallow proportions.

Forget about the bowties and mustaches: The Sweet Adelines put a feminine spin on barbershop singing.

Although some readers may consider Sweet Adelines International to be proportionately scary (the nonprofit organization is composed of female barbershop enthusiasts), its members are interested in more than just 4-part chords. In 2005 they raised 75,000 dollars for the Hurricane Katrina Relief effort. As committed to global harmony as vocal harmony, the Sweet Adelines are described on their website as “a worldwide organization of women singers committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education and performance.” Yeah, this article would be so much better with a sound bite.

To better understand the Sweet Adelines, let’s take a trip back in time, shall we? Long before the Stay Puft Marshmallow was a life-threatening sugar-villain, even before Godzilla (not so sugary) attacked Tokyo, Edna Mae Anderson and her friends in Tulsa, Oklahoma, decided it was time to try their pipes at the a cappella magic their husbands were making as members of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (that’s SPEBSQSA, in case you were wondering). In 1945, Anderson founded a barbershop club just for girls. The first chapter of Sweet Adelines International was born, called Atomaton, as in, “We have an atom of an idea and a ton of energy.” And before you could sing, “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby,” 85 members joined the Oklahoma group. Four years later there were 35 chapters across 14 states, including women of all levels of vocal training.

These days there are nearly 30,000 Sweet Adelines (run for your lives!) around the world. And they aren’t the only international women’s barbershop — or “beauty shop” — singers around. Ladies-only Harmony, Inc., founded in 1959, also sings the virtues of the artform.

Sweet Adelines International
The Rising Star Quartet Contest

7:30pm Fri, Jul 14
$15 adult; $10 student; 6 and under free

The Harmony Classic Contest
2pm Sat, Jul 15
$15 adult; $10 student;
6 and under free
Trinity University
Laurie Auditorium

715 Stadium Dr.
Tickets avail. at the door

Like jazz, barbershop is considered a distinctively American art form. In order to encourage its continued existence, in 1992 Sweet Adelines International created the Young Singers Foundation, which awards scholarships and grants to students pursuing music degrees, and also allocates funds to community vocal programs. The Sweet Adelines also instituted “Young Women in Harmony,” a program that provides complimentary barbershop teaching materials to educators. And every summer, Sweet Adelines International holds a four-day International Education Symposium: One long weekend of hardcore barbershop (oxymoron?) training.

Trinity University will host this summer’s event — which is why this article is relevant. From July 12-15, 1,500 female vocalists from all over the globe are going to trample Murchison Tower and the newly renovated Ruth Taylor Music Building! Head for the hills, faculty and staff! Just kidding, er, what I mean is, the Sweet Adelines are here and they’re going to barbershop your socks off! Catch “thrilling barbershop competitions” (their press release’s words, not mine) July 14 and 15 at the Laurie Auditorium, including the Rising Star Quartet Contest on Friday night and the Harmony Classic Contest on Saturday afternoon. Pick up your tickets at the door and then sit back, relax, face your fear of female bass, and enjoy the a cappella.

Mr. Sandman, bring me some marshmallows.

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