Sweet Adelines

Jacksonville’s chapter of Sweet Adelines Incorporated, the Jacksonville Harmony Chorus, is soon off to Hawaii for their international competition and convention. They will present a “Cabaret” on October 13th at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church to help get them there.
Why do they sing? Because they can, and together they make beautiful music. Darlene Friend, an administrative assistant at FSCJ and active member of the chorus, says, “Music is therapeutic. When we come to rehearsal, we leave our problems at the door. We’re a sisterhood. Singing fills our souls!”
They’re all volunteers and each pays to play. It’s their hobby, and it’s also a very professionally run organization. Each of them pays an international fee to join, followed by a local chapter fee, which can be worked off by staffing their food booth at Jaguars games. In Jacksonville, the chapter is a half-century old. Their best advertising is word of mouth. (When they sing, ‘You Raise Me Up,’ listeners get goosebumps.)
“I am in charge of operations and administration,” says Fran Russ. “I make sure our ends meet, and we stay within the budget.” There are around 350 choruses worldwide. The Jacksonville chorus is in one of 25 regions which boast a total of 450 chapters. “I started singing with this group when I was a Mary Kay rep,” Fran went on to say. “One of my customers had a plaque on the wall. We started talking, and I told her I loved singing harmony. She said to come with her. I’ve been singing with this group ever since.”
They stand on risers during their weekly meeting every Tuesday evening at Hendricks Avenue Baptist (HAB) Church from 7-10 pm. They’re constantly learning and continue to train their voices. Some women can sing a better bass than men. They are school teachers, nurses, real estate professionals, a lawyer, retirees, a physical therapist, a flight attendant, an endodonist, an engineer, and a pediatric genetic counselor. One even raises oysters. They range in age from the early 20s to an octogenarian. They receive service pins (5-, 10-, 20-, even 30-year), too.
Ann Gooch joined over 50 years ago, as soon as she graduated from college, and she has been a director ever since. In fact, her mission is to “harmonize the world,” and she has nearly reached it by starting 20 international chapters around the globe.
“Singing and harmony create wonderful, harmonious friendships,” Ann explains. “As we harmonize, the physical attribute of harmony and its many vibrations is felt between and among each of us. It is a visceral pleasure.”
One group of Adelines drives down from Hilton Head to practice together in Jacksonville while others come from Gainesville, Palm Coast, Daytona, St. Marys, the Beaches and all quadrants of Jacksonville. A participant can be a member of more than one chorus.
What do you see when you watch all of them singing at one time? Synchronized hands waving in the air to the melody, squirmy faces at junctures in the song, feet dancing, hands holding, and a general unison of movement as they sing as clear as bells. Each of them has a twinkle in their eyes because they love what they are doing.
It’s simple; singing makes them happy. We’re talking about a room filled with singing women with smiles on their faces and glorious tones swirling in the air. When they win a contest, each is given a beautiful medal on a red ribbon to wear around the neck, plus the title of the win. But, each feels the greatest reward is the personal satisfaction of harmonizing together.
You can help these sweeties get ready for their Hawaiian adventure, which they won from a regional contest, by purchasing a $20 or $15 ticket for their “Cabaret” at HAB on October 13. For more information, go to the Jacksonville Harmony Chorus website at www.jaxharmony.com. To find out how you can join this organization or for information on sponsorship, call 904-350-1609, or go to www.jaxharmony.com or www.meetup.com. It’s a sweet time when you go to hear Jacksonville’s Sweet Adelines!