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DebraW
28-06-2007, 09:11 AM
Local group taking a shot at world chorus title

Jennifer Fong, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Thursday, June 28, 2007

It looks like a fashion show gone wrong.

Every Wednesday night, 65 women don tutus, colourful hats and animal costumes on top of their everyday clothes at an out-of-the-way community centre in the north end.

But this is serious business for the women of the Gateway Chorus, an all-female barbershop group rehearsing for the Sweet Adelines Harmony Classic Competition in San Antonio, Texas. The Edmonton-based team was invited to the event for the first time in its 46-year history and will be facing off against the top four mid-sized (those numbering 41 to 60) choruses in the world July 11 to 14.

"I'm very excited to be in the company we're in," said chorus director Marlene Greenough, who has led the group for 12 years. "I'm delighted for the girls ... they have worked very hard."

When you think of barbershop, you probably think of the all-male quartets of the '50s. But the a cappella singing style, based on four-part chords, is also popular among many women. Sweet Adelines International Singers, a non-profit women's barbershop music education association, boasts 27,000 members from 13 countries.

Gateway members, who range in age from 17 to 88, live in or around Edmonton, with some driving more than an hour from places such as Camrose and Devon to get to the weekly three-hour practices. It's a commitment that requires dedication -- and love.

"You don't find fun in doing much else, that's what happened to me," said 88-year-old Mary Krpan, who has been a part of Gateway for 37 years.

She describes her fellow singers as "my second family."

Krpan remembers one particular performance with the chorus in Indianapolis when she realized she never wanted to leave. "I felt like I was rooted, I belonged and I was just surrounded with this happiness, this aura. I never felt that before, not even the day I was married."

Chorus members don't just sing -- they dance and act too. Gateway's 15-minute program tells the story of a woman's life in the circus through song and narration. Each member has created costumes to bring their big-top-ready characters -- elephants, stilt-walkers and clowns -- to life.

"Everybody was in it 100 per cent," said chorus producer Judy Traynor. One of the featured numbers, (Have I Stayed) Too Long At The Fair, is a song Greenough has wanted to perform with a chorus for a long time.

"It was a dream of hers," said Traynor. "If we ever made it to any kind of international competition, she would do a circus thing."

The Gateway Chorus has yet to win an international title but the group feels good going into the competition after giving their best performance ever at regionals in Regina in May. Performances are judged on music, showmanship, sound and expression, and Gateway scored 619 out of 800. It was the first time the group cracked the 600-mark and the feat earned Greenough the title of master director.

"We aren't going to be devastated if we don't win (in Texas)," said Traynor. "As long as we come off that stage feeling that we did the very best that we could do. If we leave everything that we've worked hard for on that stage on that day, we will be successful."

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SING IT

To watch video of The Gateway Chorus rehearsing a song, go to Journal videos at www.edmontonjournal.com

The Edmonton Journal 2007

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DebraW
28-06-2007, 09:18 AM
^ Go girls, go girls (sung sans accompanist).