Joining Surrey Harmony will provide you with friendship, laughter and new experiences as you hone your singing skills in ways you may never have imagined possible!
We’ve put together this information pack to give you a better idea of what we do, and help you decide if you would like to join us.
We have all come from different backgrounds. Some people had not sung since they had left school while others have been members of other choirs and needed a change. It doesn’t matter what level you come in at, you will receive the training and help you need.
No – in fact many of our members don’t read music. Whilst it helps, particularly if you are learning a harmony part (anything that isn’t the main melody), we learn all our songs by listening to recordings/audio tracks and/or sheet music, which are available online or emailed to us. A CD can be made if you do not have access to a computer.
We meet every Wednesday evening from 7.30- 10.15pm at Coulsdon Methodist Church Hall, Brighton Road, Coulsdon, Surrey. We usually break for 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year and occasionally we have extra rehearsals for special events or shows. If you are going to be in the show, competition or event it is expected that you come to these extra rehearsals but we try to give everyone plenty of notice.
We also provide coaching when we are preparing for a competition (usually once a year) or a show performance, and this can take the form of an extra evening, or a weekend retreat where we stay at a hotel and have a full weekend of hard work, fun and laughter – there is a party on the Saturday night which has been the source of long lasting memories – and this is also a great way to get to know other members that you might not have had a chance to speak to on a Wednesday evening.
Barbershop singing is four-part unaccompanied (a capella) harmony. The four parts are tenor, lead, baritone and bass. The main difference between Barbershop and other a capella singing is mainly the style of vocal production – we try hard to place our voices so that ‘overtones’ are created by ‘locking’ and ‘ringing’ of chords (don’t worry if this sounds a bit complicated, it isn’t, and all will become clear through our training and support programme). Another difference is that the melody can be taken by any of the four parts in a song. Each part is essential to the production of the barbershop sound.
The lead is the most important part in the Chorus! The lead generally sings the melody and is responsible for maintaining pitch throughout the song, as the other voices depend on the lead to find their harmony.
The baritone is the most important part in the Chorus! It is a harmony part sung above and below the lead. It is often so completely blended that it cannot be distinguished. The baritone must tune her part to the lead to produce the right sound.
The tenor is the most important part in the Chorus! She sings the highest harmony voice and supports the lead. The quality of the tenor sound must complement and not overshadow the lead.
The bass is the most important part in the Chorus! It is the lowest part, sung below the melody in a range from middle C to the C below. The bass is the powerhouse of the chorus and gives barbershop its distinctive sound.
AND THERE’S MORE… Barbershoppers don’t just sing – they move and perform like no other choirs. The sound and choreography work together and create a whole musical experience for the audience.
Once you have come along to one of our evening rehearsal sessions and decided that you are interested, you will be asked to sing a simple song privately with one of the music team. This is simply to assess which of the 4 parts your voice is best suited to and means they will know what music to give you. There is no need to prepare for this stage as it is very informal, and a chance to get to know each other. You will then be ‘placed’ in one of the 4 chorus sections and the Section Leader will arrange for you to receive music and an audio track/recording of a chorus song for you to learn over the following weeks. If at any time you have any problems with this, the section leader is always willing and able to lend a hand or offer guidance, as is your ‘buddy’ – someone allocated particularly to you as a new member to be your first port of call for information and support. This person is usually from the section you have been put in, but occasionally they may be from another part. The song will be sung regularly by the chorus in the following weeks as they work on it and you will be able to practice on the risers. After 4 weeks, you will be invited to sing it along with a quartet (in private) to see how you are progressing, and to check that you are able to sing your own part without being put off by the others. You can always ask your buddy or section leader to arrange a practice before this, and there are many opportunities to redo this – we are very aware of and sympathetic to nerves that can affect our voices! After a successful quartet session, you become a provisional member of Surrey Harmony with a ‘settling in’ period of 3 months, during which you will be able to take advantage of all the help and expertise available from your section leader, and from the musical director herself. At the end of that time, you can become a fully fledged member of the chorus, and the support will continue throughout your time as a member as and when you need it.
Once you have been accepted there is a £10 joining fee and subs are £27 per month, paid by Standing Order (£17 for students). Coaching weekends can also incur further costs although the committee do their very best to keep these to a minimum, and Surrey Harmony will fund transport (usually) to competitions although board and lodgings are still individual members responsibilities. When competitions are coming up we often run saving schemes if this is appropriate to spread costs over time.
As a member of Sweet Adelines International, Surrey Harmony can compete nationally in our region against all other SAI choruses in the UK and the Netherlands. These competitions usually take place in the second weekend in May and can be at any place in the country. We take these competitions very seriously and, as previously mentioned, often get coaching and have extra rehearsals to do our very best. However, many of our chorus members have moved on to be members of other choruses around the country and so it is also a brilliant weekend for catching up with old friends and making new ones. If a chorus wins the national competition they have the opportunity to represent the region in America at the International Competition, usually a week in October, of the next year.
This is the organization which Surrey Harmony belongs to. It is an American organization which spans the globe and there are many benefits to being a member. The fees for this are included in your monthly subscription – there are all sorts of educational and supporting tools available to you, including a quarterly magazine delivered to your door.
Stage costumes and fleeces are provided by Surrey Harmony, but remain the property of the chorus and must be returned if you should leave. Some ‘walking out’ or ‘off-stage’ T-shirts and other items are bought by individual members and are worn to events to show who we are and to give a ‘corporate’ image. Some second hand items are available, or borrowing from other members for particular events is a regular occurrence.
Hopefully this information pack will have answered most of your questions, but please feel free to talk to any of our members – we will all be happy to help you in any way we can.