Harmonious Local Ladies Win Barbershop Honors
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Harmonious Local Ladies Win Barbershop Honors

Barbershop harmony is not just for guys. Atlanta’s Sweet Adelines are big winners in camaraderie too.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

The show chorus was all in black while performing "Chicago the Musical" for the Sweet Adelines International Competition in Las Vegas, Nev. in October 2016.
The show chorus was all in black while performing "Chicago the Musical" for the Sweet Adelines International Competition in Las Vegas, Nev. in October 2016.

Atlanta is full of winners, so pile on more pride with our 80-plus member Song of Atlanta Show Chorus, part of Sweet Adelines International. The barbershop chorus recently took home the trophy for sixth in the world. Consider also that in the previous competition the group came in seventh internationally.

Barbershop music is four-part a cappella (without accompaniment) harmony in which the chords form a resonant ring. In addition to the large chorus, they also have quartets. In both chorus and quartets, the four parts are tenor, lead, baritone and bass.

The full chorus welcomes ladies from all ethnicities. For this interview, we met with some of the Jewish members:

Cheryl Simon, a member for 21 years; Nancy Rosenblum Tillison, 20; Karen Savrin, 19; and Amy Walker, seven.

Jaffe: With 67 combined years as members, this seems more like a marriage.

Tillison: Cheryl and I met through our therapy practices. While working full time, it is not easy to make the time commitment, but we do it because it’s so enjoyable.

Walker: There are 21,000 Sweet Adelines worldwide with over 500 choruses.

We have several members in their 80s and some preteens. We have some mother/daughter members. We practice on Tuesday nights for three hours in Alpharetta (previously it was at Congregation Etz Chaim). Some members drive from neighboring states.

Cheryl Simon, Nancy Rosenblum Tillison, Karen Savrin and Amy Walker are a few of the Jewish women who perform with the Song of Atlanta Show Chorus.

Jaffe: So how does one get involved?

Savrin:  There is an audition process. You have to learn a specific song to sing. Our director, Becki Hine, who has been with us 25 years, makes those decisions in conjunction with the music team. One is given direction on how to prepare. We are not looking for star operatic soloists. The purpose is harmony and blending. We enjoy performing and competing.

Jaffe: Who decides on the repertoire?

Simon: Our music team. We usually manage about 20 songs. We change, add and delete to keep current. Many standards, like “Blue Skies,” are very old songs. Then we add in modern tunes from Queen, Abba’s “Take a Chance,” Avicii, Broadway songs from “Rent” (“Seasons of Love”) and “Chicago.”

Song of Atlanta strikes a pose at the annual show in 2016 in Roswell.

Jaffe: How do the competitions ensue?

Walker: We start by winning first place in the “regionals” composed of five states, which we have done for the past several years. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and pay out-of-pocket to travel. The most recent international convention was in St Louis, but we have also been to Hawaii, Las Vegas, Seattle and Denver, to name a few. To compete at the top of our game, we have stage makeup, matching costumes, professional choreography and various coaches.

Jaffe: Where do you perform?

Tillison: We did a Chick-fil-A holiday event at their headquarters, sang at Atlanta City Hall at a ceremony for fallen police officers (attended by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Arthur Blank), nursing homes, parades, and a PGA Tournament, where we got to see Tiger Woods! We have at least two annual shows: Most recently at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center and the new Sandy Springs City Springs facility. In May, we’ll perform at the Blessed Trinity [Performing Arts] Theater in Roswell. Rehearsals are open to all interested singers.

Walker: One particularly meaningful event is “Diva Day,” where we host female high school students at a day-long workshop to teach them the art of barbershop harmony.

The women chose turquoise costumes for their most recent Sweet Adelines International Competition in St. Louis, Mo. in October 2018.

Savrin: We have performed the national anthem at a Braves game, NASCAR and Georgia Tech basketball games. Don’t forget that we made it to round 2 on “Americas Got Talent”!

Jaffe: Last word.

Simon: I joined to sing and made 70 new friends.

Tillison: I so much enjoy the sisterhood. We have tremendous camaraderie. Think of it as “Pitch Perfect,” the musical comedy film and sequel about young gals performing in an a cappella contest amid scandals and zany escapades, for grown-ups!

For anyone interested in joining the group, a guest night is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at its rehearsal location, the gymnasium of Restoration Church, 410 Rucker Road, Alpharetta. More information at www.SongofAtlanta.com.

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