For Ann George, being a part of the Sweet Adelines is as much about family as it is about music.
She recalled a trip around the country with a friend. They took a Sweet Adelines directory with them because they knew if they needed help, fellow members would take care of them.
“It’s an extended family – a wonderful organization,” she said.
Established in 1945, Sweet Adelines International is a worldwide group of female singers in the Barbershop style.
There are separate choruses in various communities – including Altoona.
George is celebrating 40 years as director of the local group.
“I was musically inclined all my life,” she mentioned. “When I graduated from college, I said, ‘now what?’”
George ended up joining the Sweet Adelines, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Music and education bring us together” she said of the Sweet Adelines experience. “I’ve met people from all over the world. You just form bonds.”
A native of the Lakemont section of Altoona, George taught Health and Physical Education in the Spring Cove School District for 35 years.
A member of the Sweet Adelines for 48 years, George’s passion for music is evident.
“Music has always been my outlet,” she stated. “It’s a way of expressing yourself.”
Not far behind George in years of engagement with the Sweet Adelines is Mary Kay Parrish.
She has been with the group for 45 years and currently serves as assistant director.
Her aunt was a member, and her father, Clarence Becker, belonged to the Horseshoe Chorus – the male version of the Sweet Adelines.
“I always knew I was going to join,” reflected Parrish, who taught at Penn-Mont Academy for almost two decades. “You go for the music and you stay for the friends.”
Parrish and George believe that the acapella Barbershop style is appealing because of its wide ranges: bass (lowest notes), baritone, lead, and tenor (highest notes).
“The four part harmony lends itself to all different kinds of music,” observed Parrish.
The Altoona chorus performs at hospitals, community events, and private parties.
“Wherever anyone would like entertainment,” added Parrish.
With its roughly 35 members, the Altoona chorus rehearses every Tuesday night from 7:00-10:00 p.m. at the Jaggard First United Methodist Church in Altoona.
Throughout this month of September, the Altoona chorus is sponsoring open houses at those rehearsals to welcome new members.
“We’re always inviting people to join,” emphasized Parrish.
The Sweet Adelines organization teaches vocal production and proper singing technique, she added, so members receive a great education in addition to the camaraderie and enjoyment. Instruction is available on a group or individual basis.
“Come on in and meet us and see what we’re all about,” urged Parrish.
Each spring, the Altoona Chorus participates in a Sweet Adelines convention/competition, George said, and each fall, the local group has its own show.
And the word “show” is an accurate depiction of what will happen, George insisted.
“We put on a show, we don’t just stand and sing,” she added.
This year, it will be on November 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Altoona Area Junior High School.
The first half will include dialogue and acting between songs. It will be less formal than the second half, George informed, which will include the Altoona Horseshoe Chorus and a children’s chorus from Holy Trinity Catholic School in Altoona.
Tickets are available at the door or through a member of the Altoona chorus. They are $12 for adults and $10 for students under 17.
For more information about the Altoona chorus of the Sweet Adelines International, visit the group’s website.