Women's Barbershop Chorus Makes Summer Home in Chevy Chase, Welcomes New Singers
The Capital Accord Chorus, a local women's barbershop group singing songs from the Great American Songbook in four-part, a capella harmony, welcomes new singers this summer at its Tuesday night rehearsals at 8100 Connecticut Ave.
As the Capital Accord Chorus, a women’s barbershop singing group, settles into its summer home at the Classic Residence at 8100 Connecticut Ave., it brings with it a unique opportunity for Chevy Chase women who like to sing to get involved in a fun, hard-working group just minutes away from home.
“It’s a good opportunity for people to try us out because we’re just in Chevy Chase for the summer,” says Marilyn Levitt, the current president of the two-dozen-member-strong chorus, which sings four-part, a capella harmony.
A capella choral music, which is unaccompanied by musical instruments, “is great wherever you are—if you’ve got four people you can sing,” says Sherry Stanton, the group’s musical director.
And the group has done well singing together at a variety of places with just each others’ voices to back each other up.
They’ve sung at the Montgomery County Fair, at the Fenton Street Market in Silver Spring, at Camden Yards for an Orioles game (they’ll sing there again later this summer) and at the regional Sweet Adelines International women's barbershop singing competition in Ocean City, at which they placed second in the small-chorus category earlier this year.
The chorus rehearses at Sligo Middle School in Silver Spring during the school year, and—with the air conditioning not cranked up at the school during the summer—usually takes the summers off.
But this year, the women wanted to keep singing throughout the summer, and arranged to practice in air-conditioned comfort at the Classic Residence in Chevy Chase, making it a perfect opportunity for Chevy Chase women to come to a rehearsal and see if the group might be a good fit for them.
The barbershop style of singing started in Tulsa in the late 1930s, when a men’s group formed to sing songs, unaccompanied, in four-part harmony. In the 1940s, their wives thought it would be fun to do, too, and the women’s barbershop chorus movement took off.
The chorus sings a wide variety of songs, although most of them are from the Great American Songbook—popular songs from the nation’s musical history that are always a big hit at performances, Stanton says.
Signature songs include “Tuxedo Junction” and “Fever” (popularized by Peggy Lee in the mid-20th century).
“It’s not your mama’s barbershop anymore,” Stanton says. “(We sing) popular music from all the eras.”
Many singers join the chorus without much of a musical background, but that’s okay—singers do not need to be able to read music to participate, because songs are taught by rote as well as by sheet music, and new singers are paired up with a buddy of the same voice part to help them learn the music.
Auditions are held just to make sure singers can carry their parts, Stanton says.
Most of the chorus’ members—who range in age from mid-20s to mid-70s and come from all over the Washington, DC, metropolitan area—joined the chorus for the singing, but have stayed because of the strong camaraderie and sense of community enjoyed by the singers.
“It’s a really great group of women, “ Levitt says. “I joined because I missed the singing, but I have made many friends.”
“(There’s an) adrenaline you get from singing that carries you through hard times,” she says, adding that the group recently sang at the memorial service for the husband of one of the singers.
Rehearsals will be held all summer at the Classic Residence (8100 Connecticut Ave., Chevy Chase), every Tuesday from 7:30 to 10 p.m. New singers are encouraged to call ahead (301-585-2422) and meet with Stanton at 7 p.m. so that Stanton can determine a new singer’s voice part.