On Sunday, October 16, beginning at 3:00 p.m., The Dogwood Blossoms Chorus will host its first post-pandemic performance at the Mount Vernon Nazarene University Thorne Performance Hall, 800 Martinsburg Road, Mount Vernon. Together with a light-hearted narrated story, the chorus of 25 women will deliver chord-ringing, fun-filled barbershop harmony to 13 arrangements spanning six decades of American entertainment. These unforgettable tunes made their way into homes and theaters as background music, threading through the American landscape as it evolved from post-World War II to post-9/11.
The audience will find it hard not to tap their toes and sing along as they recall the voices of Doris Day, Louis Armstrong, Jo Stafford, Willie Nelson, The Ad Libs, The Fifth Dimension and more. Barbershop harmony is a style of vocal music performed a cappella (without instrument accompaniment) in four parts. It is rooted in African-American traditions of the late 1800s in the South, and has been largely performed by male quartets and choruses.
Today, you will find over 45,000 women singing barbershop-style all over the world as members of Sweet Adelines International, a non-profit organization. Local chapters are organized into 45 regions that span the globe. One such chapter, The Dogwood Blossoms, began meeting in Mount Vernon in 1980 and received its official charter in 1981. According to its website, www.dogwoodblossoms.org, women from five different counties come to Mount Vernon weekly to rehearse together. They have sung at area festivals, nursing homes, churches, banquets, reunions and other get-togethers.
The thing they do best?
“Sing, eat, and love on each other!” explained Barb Snow, who has been a member for a total of 35 years. Some members have been close friends for decades, but it does not stop them from welcoming new singers into the group and gaining more friendships.
“[Even] in spite of COVID, our membership has remained stable,” said Dixie Waite, another 35-year member.
“Other circumstances have caused us to lose a couple members–family obligations, health, work obligations–but we have gained five new members in the past two years!”
Cindy Brown joined the group five years ago. Today, she serves as the Blossoms’ current chapter president.
“Prior to joining, my husband and I had just spent two years battling serious health issues. I was looking for something new and fun in my life, that would help take my mind off my problems.”
She found what she was looking for by singing as a bass in Dogwood Blossoms. She encourages women of all ages—teenagers through to post-retirement—to come to a rehearsal, meet the other singers, and give barbershop harmony a try.
In the meantime, everyone is urged to come to “Our Way Back. . .A Journey to Connection,” on October 16. Tickets are $12.00 in advance and $15.00 at the door. Tickets for children ages 10 and under are $5.00. They can be purchased from any chorus member, or online at Eventbrite.com. For more information about the performance, or to express interest in joining the chorus, call (740) 324-5229.
–Contributed by Krista DeWitt