The Lake Country Harmony Chorus, a chapter of Sweet Adelines International with members from throughout East Texas, practices for three hours each Monday night at Gilmer Intermediate School.
And Monday evening, in preparation for an upcoming contest in Richardson, they put on a dress rehearsal for an appreciative audience of a few dozen invited guests.
Along with the classic barber shop type songs, the 31-member group’s repertoire includes pop music from the past 60 years or so, ranging from Happy Together to The Lion Sleeps Tonight. And judging from their beaming faces and enthusiastic demeanors, they are elated to perform.
“We are a sisterhood. We really do care for one another. Our music says that,” Edith Cater of Mineola told the audience in the school’s music room before the chorus launched into its opening number, the old pop hit We Are Family.
She noted the local chapter includes women “that have never sung in a group before.
Founded in 1995, the locally-based chorus is open to new members by audition, and has almost doubled its numbers since last year.
The largely middle-age membership ranges in age from director Dianne Bernstein’s 10-year-old daughter, Rebekah Bernstein, to 80-year-old Greda Barnes of Gilmer, who looks much younger.
The members come from such cities as Longview, Tyler, Kilgore, Pittsburg, Mt. Pleasant, Winnsboro, and rural Upshur County—even as far away as Texarkana. They meet here because Gilmer is considered a hub of several different area cities.
Clad in black pants—and black shirts underneath open turquoise-colored blouses adorned with treble clef emblems—each sings in one of four voices—bass, baritone, leads and tenor.
One might be surprised to know the backgrounds of some of the members. While it might be surmised that women interested in science and mathematics would not particularly be attracted to the arts, the chorus includes Gilmer High School science instructor Criss Bartley—and the director, Ms. Bernstein, teaches sixth grade math at the Intermediate School.
“Music is very mathematical,” explained Ms. Bernstein, going on her fourth year directing the group. “I use music and math,” she elaborated, noting she relates fractions to musical quarter notes and half notes.
The music-making is also a family affair for Ms. Bernestein. In addition to her 10-year-old daughter, the director has a 30-year-old daughter, Nicole Taylor, in the chorus.
Four members of the group comprise a quartet called “Embrace.” Attired in purple tunics with sequined butterflies, they sang such numbers as the old pop hit One Fine Day.
Those interested in joining the chorus may call Ms. Bartley at 903-762-1091 or member Janet Galvan of Longview at 903-759-8900.
The chapter’s oldest member, Ms. Barnes, has sung with four such choruses over 28 years—including a large one in Dallas called the “Rich Tones,” which she said won three gold medals in competition.
“It’s been my life,” she observed.
“As long as I can carry a tune, I’ll be here.”