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NON-PROFIT HAPPENINGS - February 2004

Valley Voices
Entertaining Moab for Quarter Century
By Terby Barnes

Valley Voices
Mary Mayberry 259-5767
Terby Barnes 259-6700

What would Valentines Day be without the sound of the Valley Voices ringing throughout the Moab area? The practice of serenading loved ones on this special day was adopted almost 25 years ago by this group of dedicated women singers, and has continued uninterrupted ever since. Over the years, other traditional performances by the Valley Voices have called for diverse repertories. For example, the Veterans Day memorial service with its patriotic program, and Christmas carols for the lighting of the community tree, the Arts and Crafts Fair, and programs for Allen Memorial Hospital's extended care patients. These special ladies also entertain at the annual Seekhaven fund raiser with select love songs, and offer appropriate music as well for affairs such as engagement parties, wedding anniversaries, birthday bashes and even funerals. Actually, this busy band of women have been bringing enjoyment to the community with their singing for more than a quarter of a century.


A Little History: The origin of the Valley Voices dates back to 1975 when, under the urging of Moab music teacher Doreen Crossland, a small group of men and women would get together at someone's house to sing songs around a piano. They sang in mixed four-part harmony - soprano, alto, tenor and bass - with accompaniment. Little by little, however, the number of men dwindled to nothing; accompanists, who opted to sing rather than play, became scarce; and the group's existence was threatened. At about that time, they learned of an organization comprised entirely of women who sang four-part harmony in the "Barbershop" style, a cappella, or unaccompanied. Sweet Adelines International made some sheet music available so the little group started to acquaint themselves with this unique singing mode. It caught on and the resultant enthusiasm traveled by word of mouth, attracting more adherents. Soon, the group, still under Mrs. Crossland's direction, with the assistance of some devoted followers, grew in number and formed an organized club, complete with a panel of officers, and a set meeting place and rehearsal time.

In 1978 the group adopted the name Valley Voices and the following year the 12 members made their performing debut at the Statehood celebration on the Moab Museum lawn. Soon, they were being sought out to entertain at civic and social club gatherings, sorority luncheons, conventions, and other community affairs, as well as for private parties.

In 1982, Mrs. Crossland retired to California and the director's shoes were filled by Joyce Parry, under whom the chorus gradually swelled to 28 singers. Finally, on December 1, 1984, at a formal ceremony in Star Hall, the Valley Voices were presented with a Charter as a fully-accepted member of Sweet Adelines International. Now their work was really cut out for them. Under full membership, attendance at regional competitions became mandatory at least every three years, so rehearsals were held religiously each week, much of the time spent perfecting the two songs chosen for competition purposes. Yard sales were held to raise money for transportation to such Sweet Adeline convention venues as Colorado Springs, Denver and Salt Lake City. The Voices faithfully attended the annual three-day workshop at the beautiful mountain resort of Estes Park, Colorado, which offered cream-of-the-crop instructors and directors, and prize-winning quartettes as models to emulate. All the while, the chorus officers regularly conformed with the exacting administrative demands of the international organization.

Five years after joining the Sweet Adelines and reaping the many benefits offered, the Valley Voices' membership had fallen below the numbers required by the international organization and the group was compelled to drop out. Disappointing though this was, it did relieve the group of many obligations, both financial and occupational. Besides, the move motivated the group to concentrate more on entertaining at local affairs, which has been their chief impetus ever since. Now the group could spend more energy on the musical product while, at the same time, dress appropriately and tastefully. The handsome outfits of red fleece jackets, black turtleneck shirts and black pants make for a perfect attire when singing for Veterans Day, Christmas or Valentines Day. For indoor or evening affairs, silky multi-colored blouses and black pants make ideal dress-up outfits. The chorus also has denim skirts and attractive self-designed vests for Western performances.

Members buy their own costumes, or have them made, or inherit them from outgoing members. A special committee sees that everyone is taken care of for clothes and accessories such as scarves, corsages, etc.
Over the years the membership of the Valley Voices has been comprised of women of diverse backgrounds and interests. But the cosmopolitan mix of the membership can lend to disappointment in the form of attrition, a constant concern, so recruitment is always in progress in order to keep the four singing parts in proper balance. In their attempts to interest new members, the Voices like to stress that one need not be able to read music to sing Barbershop, although this kind of knowledge would be an advantage. Nor are there auditions or any stringent requirements of newcomers, just a love of harmonizing.

About Barbershop: Normally thought of as a medium for male singers, the Barbershop-style lends itself quite well to women's voices, although the musical arrangement, originally written for men, requires modification to achieve the most pleasing delivery. For the uninitiated, Barbershop is harmony in which the four parts - tenor, lead, baritone and bass - are written as very close-together notes which, incidentally, makes such chords impossible to be played as a keyboard composition. Sometimes these four notes will blend so successfully as to create a fifth note, an "overtone" which gives the impressionable thrill to the listener. This is known as the "goosebump factor." The better the singing, the higher the factor.

Singing this close harmony requires a discerning tonal ear, an ability to memorize lyrics, and a willingness to follow directions which sometimes call for rather unique interpretation. Paramount in this type of musical rendition are the louds and softs, known as dynamics, variations in speed, unusual groupings of lyrics, and the essential blending of voices with a minimum of vibrato. These hallmarks give the Barbershop harmony its unmistakable identity, as well as afford a distinct challenge to the participant -- and extreme enjoyment to the listener.

Traditionally, Barbershop music relies heavily on subjects of southern sentimentality and the even more saccharine sweet songs about mother, or Mammy. Although these customs are respected by the Valley Voices and representative pieces can be found in their repertory, a few members, with the help of their friend Doreen Crossland, are now trying their hand at writing their own arrangements, using a computerized music-writing program to update some of the old favorites to better suit modern tastes.

The Valley Voices meet to "harmonize the world" every Monday evening at 7:00 o'clock in the Balsley Hall of the Community Church. Interested parties may call Mary Mayberry, 259-5767, or Terby Barnes, 259-6700.

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