Alycen Farrell of Song of Seattle, an award-winning women’s a capella and barbershop chorus, welcomes women of all musical backgrounds into the organization with one important question: “All we ask is — are you able to carry a tune?”
The 30-member Song of Seattle chorus is made up of smaller quartets that compete in major singing competitions, both regionally and internationally, and leading up to the Sweet Adelines International (SAI) regional barbershop competition May 18-21 in Spokane, Song of Seattle hosted a Spring Fling at the Carco Theatre in Renton in mid-April.
“The Spring Fling is a service that we’re offering to the eight quartets,” said founding member Debra Aungst of the seat-filled event, which was made possible by a grant from the Renton Municipal Arts Commission.
Judged on visual communications, expression, music and sound, the Spring Fling was a way for local quartets to test out their performances in front of an audience and get professional feedback on their a capella musicality and presentation.
The Song of Seattle chorus opened the show under the direction of Paula Davis, followed by the quartets RainTones, Calliope, Touchstone, PrimeTime, Charmed and Riot. Up To Something and Joyful Noise were slated to perform but had to cancel. Several Song of Seattle chorus members performed in their respective quartets like Aungst in Touchstone and Sonja Mejlaender in PrimeTime.
“We are blessed to have a quartet in our chorus that, when they won the regional contest [in the past], they were eligible at the international contest that were the top 15 quartets in the world,” said Aungst.
What made the Spring Fling in Renton a special event was its showcase of powerhouse vocalists and supreme talent that comes from women that work regular jobs or raise families.
“One of the things I absolutely love is it attracts young women in their teens and women in their 90s, it’s not age specific at all and that’s such a wonderful opportunity and it’s a wonderful hobby,” said Aungst.
Song of Seattle, which never exceeds 35 members, has a wide range of ages in its chorus, from women in their mid-30s to women in their 80s, like Juanita Harwood, who has been singing in the chorus for over 60 years.
What helps the chorus’ longevity is the effervescent and supportive environment the chorus cultivates at its weekly rehearsals.
Every Wednesday evening, Song of Seattle members travel to the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Bellevue for rehearsals, while those who can’t make it join over Zoom.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck chorus. It takes everyone to contribute and our chorus members really step up to help. We’re grateful to get to be together,” said Mejlaender. “There’s incredible leadership across these 30 members; Our chorus is mighty on a lot of levels.”
Part of their might is their theatricality and musical theater edge, incorporating colorful scarves, choreography and some acting into their performances. This attention to detail and cohesive performance — along with some really amazing vocals — earned Song of Seattle the Audience Favorite award at the regional convention for four consecutive years.
After the regional competition in Spokane, the chorus and quartets that qualify will make their way to Louisville, Kentucky for the SAI’s 75th Annual International Convention and Competition in late October and early November.