A busy, singing mother takes note of her own needs

NEIGHBORS

January 31, 2001|By Donna Koros Stramella | Donna Koros Stramella,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FOUR YEARS AGO, when Rose Swicegood decided she needed a weekly night out, she didn't join a book club, enroll in a class or sign up for a bowling league.

Instead, the Glen Burnie mother stepped up to the microphone.

Swicegood says she had little singing experience when she joined Arundelair, a women's chorus in Annapolis. Although she hadn't sung since high school and had never learned to read music, she had an important attribute: She can carry a tune.

She was familiar with women's barbershop singing. Her mother, who died in December, had been a 27-year member of the Peach Pipers, a group in South Carolina.

"Even when she was very ill, she would have them push her up on stage in her wheelchair," Swicegood recalled.

"My mother loved every minute of it."

Like mother, like daughter. It seems that Swicegood quickly caught the bug, but she says it wasn't always easy to keep her weekly appointment.

"When I first took it on, the first few weeks were the hardest," she says. "My kids didn't want me to go.

But she knew she needed an outlet, not only for her musical talents, but also for herself. Swicegood and husband Andy have three children. Their middle child, Daniel, a 14-year-old at the county's Ruth Parker Eason School, is autistic.

"I needed to do this for me," she says. "I've gone to support groups and still do. I'm taking a little bit of Daniel with me when I sing, but this support is not for him; it's for me."

After beating a path down Interstate 97 to Annapolis for four years, Swicegood and a half-dozen other local residents have started a Glen Burnie group, Freedom Rings.

The local group sings under the direction of Neal Ellis, a man with 30 years of barbershop music experience. Practices are held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Glen Burnie United Methodist Church. The chorus has 10 members, with room for more.

The group is working toward a charter in the Sweet Adelines national organization, with which the Arundelair chorus is affiliated.

Some of the Freedom Rings members sang in church and school choirs. But Swicegood says ability, not experience, is the only requirement.

"If you can sing and hold your key, you can join," she says.

The vocalist said there are four voice parts in the barbershop style. "When all those four voices are put together properly, they make a fifth overtone."

Competition will be limited at first, and the group plans to become involved in community projects.

"I know the singers are out there," she says. "I'm trying to promote this as a ladies' night out."

For Swicegood, with children ages 12, 14 and 16, a "night out with the girls" is a night to enjoy, she says.

It could also be a comfort for others.

"My son, Daniel, enjoys the music," she says. "He finds that fifth overtone very comforting."

For information on joining the group, call Swicegood at 410-761-3931.

Another barbershop group

New Spirit of Maryland, a women's barbershop chorus, will be offering free singing lessons for women 18 or older.

The lessons are scheduled from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. each Thursday next month at Glen Burnie Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 409 Fifth Ave.

Information: 410-987-6627.

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