Quartets have musical fix for Valentine's Day gifts


January 20, 2002|By Christina Bittner | Christina Bittner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THIS YEAR THE quartets from the Harbor City Music Company are providing a foolproof way to surprise your significant other on Valentine's Day.

For $40, the group will deliver a two-song singing telegram, a card and flowers. If the love of your life resides outside the Baltimore metro area, they will deliver the telegram by phone for $10 to $15, depending on the area.

The Harbor City Music Company is a chorus of the Sweet Adeline's International. They make their home at Brooklyn Park's Chesapeake Center for Creative Arts, 194 Hammonds Lane.

The group's 90 members hail from throughout Maryland and beyond.

"We have members from nine Maryland counties and Virginia. Some drive for over an hour to come to practice," said spokeswoman Becky Copeland. "They're pretty dedicated."

Copeland explained that the group sings barbershop-style, which can be very difficult.

"Barbershop is a four-part harmony; the bass is the foundation. It is a different type of singing. Every chord must have a `ring' to it," she said.

This is nothing like singing in the high school chorus.

"The chords are actually written differently and arranged differently. It has a closer harmony," Copeland said.

As Copeland explained more about the singing, it appeared more and more difficult to do. According to her, the real challenge is for each member of the quartet to sing in a different note.

"That is the really hard part. You sing one note and the other three sing the others. Most people find this to be very difficult. Then again there are some that can do it with no problem. But if you can't do that, you can't sing barbershop," she said.

The Harbor City Music Company manages to meet all the requirements successfully. The group was selected to represent District 19, which includes Maryland, Delaware and portions of Pennsylvania, in this year's international competition in Nashville.

"We won first place at the regional contest last April. At the international contest [the winners] will compete against each other. When it was held last year in Portland, Ore., three of the groups in the top 10 were from Sweden," Copeland said.

"In competition, the judge's decision is based on three things: expression, sound and music. Do the chords lock together and do they ring? The group's choreography is also part of the overall performance," Copeland said.

"All groups in the international contest must sing in English. I think it's easier for non-native speakers. They learn the words phonetically from the start."

"Most people sing the way that they speak. Natives must get rid of that Baltimore twang or, in my case, a Midwestern twang. Everyone's vowel sounds must be the same. That is difficult," Copeland said.

Despite all this, Copeland loves to sing barbershop.

"It's fun, it's a hobby and I love it," she said.

Women are welcome to tryout for the group. Rehearsals are held at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the Chesapeake Center. Interested singers are welcome to attend. Information: 800-856-9868 or 410-561-0590.

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