There is more to Red Deer’s Hearts of Harmony than the impeccably-arranged harmonies and engaging performances audiences have enjoyed over the years.
The vibrant group of Central Alberta women – which specializes in traditional barbershop, jazz, rock, gospel and showtunes in intricate four-part harmony – is also something of a family; a fun and supportive group that members feel at home in right off the bat.
Under the direction of the talented Sheryl Brook, Hearts of Harmony began in Red Deer in 1993 with six members.
By 2001, the membership had grown to 20. Today, Hearts has 38 members from around Central Alberta who come together weekly to hone their skills and learn new melodies.
Women are by no means new to the barbershop genre, having been performing the style for some 75 years now, added Brook.
Local members rehearse on Mondays at 7 p.m. at Davenport Church (68 Donlevy Ave).
As mentioned, Hearts is more than just work – as well as learning music and performing in the community, members also emphasize friendship and fun, for which they are known to be about.
The group performs at several local community functions, nursing homes, churches, women’s conferences and private functions.
Sunni Paszcza and Joanna Sheppard sat down to discuss an upcoming show in November and also just what makes being a part of Hearts of Harmony so special. The concert, entitled ‘Singing the Dream’, runs Nov. 17th at the Memorial Centre, starting at 2 p.m.
“It’s about the different aspects of dreams – a lot of our songs will feature the word ‘dream’,” said Paszcza. “We have all of our songs picked out, but we are still ‘scripting’ the production.
“A lot of the songs are also part of our repertoire, and we will be doing a bit of our Christmas repertoire as well.”
The concert is a fundraiser, with money raised going to support the group heading off to competitions in the spring of 2019 in Surrey, B.C.
As for their membership in the group, Paszcza found a notice of it in the paper.
“I was looking for a chorus, and I just happened to come across this ad so I called, and I’ve been here 11 years now. I love it! It’s a lot of fun, and it’s something different doing the ‘a cappella’,” she explained. “It’s really a great group to be around – there is quite the mix of personalities,” she added. “We’ve got a really good dynamic altogether.
“There is also so much opportunity to get better and to learn,” she said. “I always thought you just go and sing, but we are always doing workshops and learning new skills – it’s great.”
“I found their web site which said you could come by and check out a rehearsal, and so I did.” From the start, she was hooked. “It’s the fun, and everyone is super-friendly and very welcoming,” she said.
“And the music is really fun to sing, too. It’s a challenge because you don’t have the accompaniment, but I enjoy that aspect.”
To those who might have an interest in the group but are feeling a bit shy about taking that step, Paszcza said to come by and take that step. The support is tremendous, she noted.
“You just get up there and go for it. You learn quickly, and if there is something you don’t know there is always somebody right there willing to help you along.”
“Music just speaks to our souls, really. And you get to let go of your day. You are doing something that you enjoy that’s fun. You can leave your worries at the door.”
Lesley Stafford and Helen Seaville also shared their thoughts on the array of benefits Hearts of Harmony brings to their lives.
Stafford said that for her, four-part harmonies are different than any other harmonies. “I just love the way they blend. Those are the harmonies I know the best,” she said, adding her mom had directed a barbershop chorus at one time as well. “You can also express anything you feel through music.”
Stafford also noted that amongst the members, there isn’t a complainer to be found.
“They are all so warm, compassionate and friendly. They are just a great group of women. And Sheryl is wonderful. She’s so talented, and she teaches us so much.”
Seaville officially became a member just this past summer.
“I love good music and I love harmonies,” she said with a laugh. So it’s proven a perfect fit from the get-go. “The ladies are a beautiful group of joyful people. And so that drew me too – the music was lovely and the people were just brilliant, so for me it was a win-win.
“Music really brings out the best in us. You go home happier than when you came in,” she added.
“Even if you are having a bad day, come to a rehearsal, and 10 minutes later you are full of energy, you’re happier – you walk in and everyone is smiling at you. It’s great.”
Check out www.heartsofharmony.ca.