East Hampton – Alright, I am going to admit it, sometimes I am a pompous snob. At least that is certainly how I felt after leaving the Guild Hall performance of the Long Island Sound Chorus (LISC) on Saturday, October 3. Allow me to elaborate. In my position as Senior Arts &
Entertainment Reporter for Hamptons.com I cover many upscale events, both artistic and charitable from Manhattan to Montauk and I interview countless celebrities from the worlds of literature, art and show business. This website is without a doubt the number one Internet resource regarding America’s most famous summer playground for the rich and famous, the Hamptons! However, we are also committed to coverage of local news and events with the same level of devotion we give to the tonier fetes and celebrities that make up our rarified East End universe.
To that end, my intrepid editor, Eileen Casey, gave me the assignment of covering the aforementioned Long Island Sound Chorus. Fine with me, I love classical choral music: Bach, Hayden, Mendelssohn, etc. So after two afternoon events I headed over to Guild Hall for an evening of choral rapture. Well imagine my surprise to discover that the LISC is the local chapter of the Sweet Adelines. As my anticipated rapture turned to dreaded reservation, I wonder what I had done to so offend my editor that this would be the finale to my already long day. Not only that, the LISC had special guests in the form of, dare I say it, a men’s barbershop quartet called “Swing Shift.”
The evening was dubbed “Broadway – Barbershop Style” and I wondered, in horror, why anyone would do that to the timeless tunes of the Great White Way? I told myself, “Okay, I can deal with this! I am a veteran reporter and I can weather this short musical storm.” Nonetheless, I made sure to sit in the balcony in case I needed a quick, unnoticed escape.
Well my friends let me tell you, the LISC gave this pompous snob a pretty good and very much deserved smack down and lesson in humility. These local Sweet Adelines were nothing short of wonderful and my highly educated artistic palette savored every moment and note. This four-part, barbershop style, a cappella musical troupe of dedicated voices filled Guild Hall not only with quality of talent, but a sense of pure joy and artistic passion in their performance.
To paraphrase the film “Jerry McGuire,” they had me at hello. Hello in this case meant their first number – “The Joint is Jumpin'” from “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” This was followed by another nine Broadway favorites from the musicals “The King and I,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “Anything Goes,” “Jersey Boys,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Sound of Music,” “Grease” and, of course, “Mama Mia.” Okay, you’re right, they didn’t need to do two from “Mama Mia,” but they were all done with professional skill and bravado, with two in quartet format by two of the chapter’s specially chosen quartets.
Beyond the quality of the music and performance enjoyment I experienced from my place in the balcony, I sensed the wonderful camaraderie between these very diverse women. This seemed, at least to me, a chorus of “I am woman hear me roar.” I imagined their individual lives as professionals, blue collar employees, working mothers, retirees, youthful and matured, rich and poor. All gifted in voice, many had perhaps harbored dreams of Broadway or operatic careers, but like for so many of us, life got in the way. In each one of their faces, in each of their enthusiastic, choreographed ensemble gestures they expressed the sheer delight of raising their voices in unison, of entertaining a packed house with their very substantial talents. Talents that were once perhaps thought of as distinctly unique, now unselfishly surrendered in the sisterhood of the Sweet Adelines, surrendered in the simple joy of singing with friends and sharing a common love of music. There is no monetary compensation for their talents; their reward is far more valuable than money. It is the priceless joy of shared friendships in pursuit of artistic excellence.
To further make my point, I should note that the evening’s concert was dedicated to a LISC fallen sister. Former chapter president Cari Salvadori died this past year and it was clear that each of the extraordinary women on the stage of Guild Hall were singing in her honor and to her memory.
Sorry Swing Shift, with respect to editorial integrity I will have to admit I left after the Sweet Adelines left the stage before the intermission and did not stay for your barbershop quartet performance. Please understand that this was not out of disrespect for your style of vocalization, believe me I have learned my lesson. I just wanted the voices of the women ringing in my ears as I pondered that very lesson I had learned.
There were about three dozen women in voice on the stage, but I suggest to the women that read this article that there should be dozens more. The LISC is always looking for new members and they meet once a week on Wednesdays in Riverhead. You won’t get the chance to teach this old pompous snob a lesson, as that has already been done. You will get a chance to join in friendships with diverse women of like mind and talents that bring to the stage a common gift of vocal excellence and a passion for performance that resonates in every glorious note and gesture.
Originally Posted: October 20, 2009 by Douglas MacKaye Harrington, www.hamptons.com.