Women of Note 2017
Region 31’s selection of Women of Note for 2017 is nothing if not diverse and exceptional, going to show just how diverse and exceptional the members of our wonderful region really are! Congratulations to every single one of you. You are our unsung heroines.
Evelyn Hope has been a member of the Aberdeen Chorus singing bass since 1989. Her dedication, enthusiasm and commitment to the chorus over the years has been exceptional. As President, Evelyn kept the chorus focused on harmony both in singing and on the risers. As bass section leader she was both encouraging and committed to ensuring the bass section were of the highest calibre. Her sense of humour shines through on every occasion and despite some health issues she is never without a smile. Anything she is asked to do is met with “yes, no problem I’ll do that for the chorus”. Evelyn has only missed one convention in all the years she has been a member of the chorus proving her love of singing and her love of Sweet Adelines. She has gained the respect of every chorus member welcoming news girls and supporting the old girls.
Gill Thomas had a passion for every aspect of barbershop singing and fellowship. She joined Spinnaker Chorus after attending a singing course in 2007 and threw herself into it with enormous enthusiasm and energy. She quickly became a valued member of the bass section, known for her rich vocal tones and her keen ear for music, as well as acting as deputy section leader and a member of the front row.
Gill competed at Convention every year and loved the thrill of competition and the joy and fellowship that surrounded it. She was a hard worker in every aspect of her life and had little time for people with a “couldn’t care less” attitude. She brought this conviction and commitment to her barbershop singing. She competed in many other competitions and music festivals with Spinnaker and in smaller ensembles and loved the preparation, performance and celebrations of success that all her hard work resulted in.
When Gill died unexpectedly and tragically young in January 2017, Spinnaker and the region lost a very special lady with a big heart and a compassion for all, who had a gift for entertaining audiences and chorus members alike with her wonderful singing and her amazing sense of humour. A little like the Cheshire cat, the thing that will forever remain in Spinnaker’s memories of Gill is her smile and the twinkle in her eye, the things that for many epitomised her vivacious and creative personality.
Joan Streets is a founding member of Sheffield Harmony and has been a Board member since its foundation in October 1978. For almost all of the 39 years, she has been the Treasurer. Incredibly this great grandmother is still looking after all chorus financial matters as she approaches her 80th birthday! She joins the chorus for sing-outs, singing baritone and sometimes lead. Originally Joan sang in a church choir but once she became involved in barbershop she was hooked! What does she love best about chorus? “That we are always striving for perfection”. This sums her up! Chorus members have many stories to relate about Joan! One member recalls her attention to detail when travelling to competitions. Joan moved up and down the coach inspecting every member’s bow tie to check they were uniform! At Monday evening practices it is Joan who notices which moves are out of sync or whose hand is in an incorrect position! She is an amazing woman with endless energy and “Chorus Mum” to many at Sheffield Harmony Chorus!
Jenny Lawson is the founding director of Surrey Harmony Chapter, registering with Sweet Adelines in 1992 making this their 25th year of membership. Jenny has mentored and coached all Surrey Harmony members over the whole history of the chorus and – since her retirement in 2012 – has developed members onto the Leadership Team. Their new director, Lorraine Turner started her Sweet Adelines journey as a member of Surrey Harmony and through Jenny’s leadership and training has attained the knowledge and confidence to take over the leadership of our chorus.
Jenny led the chorus to win over 14 medals including Regional golds, silvers and wildcard invitations to perform on the International stage and Surrey Harmony remains the highest placing UK chorus at International placing 15th.
Jenny has coached UK choruses and encouraged members to uptake any and all regional and International training to continue to grow in our musical excellence and has nurtured so many singers that many UK choruses have benefitted from Surrey Harmony trained singers.
Always a private and essentially shy person, she has never been one to seek the limelight but for Surrey Harmony chorus and for everyone in Region 31, her name is legendary as an inspired director, coach and singer as well as composer/arranger of our regional song – Quartet of Nations.
Moira Garbutt joined Forth Valley Chorus in 1990 and initially sang lead, before realising her true calling as a bass! She has a beautiful rich bass voice and is a mainstay of the section. FVC is a family affair for Moira– her sister-in-law Mags Murdoch, niece Lesley Bee and her daughter Lynsey Benton all sing in the chorus too.
Moira is the heart and soul of Forth Valley Chorus– hugely talented, knowledgeable, supportive and with tons of energy that radiate through everything she does for the chorus. She is first to arrive and last to leave every week. She greets everyone with a smile and a personal word – she cares about everyone in the chorus and is welcoming and inclusive to all, particularly new members. As one of our newest members said, “When we passed our auditions, the entire chorus sang a welcoming song to the newbies. I will never ever forget Moira’s face as it beamed a message of welcome from the crowd, I can see it now. It is a very precious memory and will be with me always. Every now and again you meet someone in your life who makes you feel good, Moira is one of those ladies.”
Moira served many years on the FVC management team before retiring recently. She always volunteered for the maximum three years, before taking the compulsory year off, and then volunteering again straight away! She never put herself forward to be the team leader during that time, but has been a great help behind the scenes to many team leaders with her sage advice and encyclopaedic knowledge of all things FVC and Sweet Adelines!
Moira has a fabulous sense of humour and when there is laughter on the risers (as there frequently is at FVC rehearsals), Moira is usually at its heart! She makes the chorus a joyful place to be. Moira loves FVC and the chorus loves her.
Michelle Walker joined the world of barbershop at the age of 14 (nearly 15) when Glenn, a chemistry teacher, started the Lace City Chorus at the school she attended. Over almost 25 years, she has contributed hugely to the chorus in various leadership positions and her enthusiasm and humour are a consistent motivation to the chorus, particularly encouraging and supporting her baritone section.
Her current roles are Assistant Chorus Director, Choreographer, Section Leader, Music Team and Regional Faculty Team member – she is also a 4-time quartet gold medallist. She has been with her current quartet lineup Storm, for 9 years. To say barbershop has played a big part in her life is probably an understatement!
Outside of barbershop, Michelle is the proud Mum to Ben and Olivia, is a primary school teacher and also sings in a rock band, all supported by her partner Matt. However, the moment that will probably stay with her for life was the time she performed on stage with Gary Barlow. It was a dream come true having been a huge fan since she was 13. Her barbershop education and experience of performing definitely came in useful on that occasion!
Mary Price is a founding member of Milltown Sound and has been singing barbershop for almost 20 years. Mary is a committed chorus member and has previously acted as Team Coordinator and Assistant Team Coordinator as well as being part of the Choreography Team. Mary is a retired Primary School Teacher and is wife to Denis and mum to Andrew and Liz, who also sings with Milltown. Mary is celebrating a special birthday this year and the chorus is honoured to have been asked to sing at her birthday celebrations.
For the last two years, Mary has been supporting the chorus by making and altering contest costumes. This has been a huge undertaking including many hours of hard work. Mary does all of this with enthusiasm and a smile and has proven herself to be a very talented seamstress. We are very grateful for her willingness to take on this role within our Chorus and we were delighted to show off her newest creations at convention this year.
Ina Meskers has always been involved in barbershop, first with The Flying High Singers from Nieuw Vennep and now with No Borders Show Chorus. Throughout the years, she has always been there somewhere within the chorus – helping out – lending a hand. She was one of the founder members of No Borders Show Chorus and last year she helped sort out all our travel arrangements and was always somewhere in the background during the 2016 Regional Convention in Newcastle to help out, answer questions and generally lift everyone’s spirits.
Ina is our Secretary, but no ordinary Secretary. She makes sure that we are all up to date with all of the many wonderful things that the chorus is involved with. Whether it’s posting the minutes of Board Meetings, details of the hotel in Newcastle for the coming Convention, stepping up to take over the Membership post when needed. It seems as if whenever the chorus needs to get something done – Ina is there to make sure it happens. She takes time at rehearsals to answer all the questions that are raised, she keeps track of who is at the rehearsals, takes time to contact members who have missed rehearsals and supports members who are unable to attend because of illness or personal issues.
On top of this, she has been helping out with the new No Borders Show Chorus Members Site, sorting out all the files and making it all a lot easier for all of the chorus to access all the information needed. No Borders Show Chorus is very lucky to have such a dedicated Secretary and chorus member!
Karen James has been a member of the lead section of Vocal Dimension since its very first rehearsal in January 2010 and is one of the chorus’s charter members. She has also been an active member of the finance team from the very beginning, taking on the role of finance coordinator in 2015 and has just started her second two-year term in the role.
Karen lives in Horley with her husband of 34 years, Gerry. They have two children, Amber and Nick and they also have hundreds and hundreds of honey bees! Karen works in her local school as the Business Manager. Prior to joining Vocal Dimension, Karen strutted her stuff on stage in am dram for many years with a particular talent for panto (oh yes she did!). She and her husband also ran Murder Mystery evenings with a team of their am-dram friends who acted out the roles at corporate and social events. All this experience stood her in good stead to take on the role of Barbara Shoppe with VDC!
Karen is one of those people who just quietly gets on with whatever is asked of her. She is super-efficient and effective at whatever she does and we all feel totally reassured knowing that she is in charge of our finances. When Karen takes her turn at hosting the management team meetings, she provides the most amazing cakes, often made with ingredients fresh from her garden and hence even providing one of your five a day! Who knew beetroot was so good in a chocolate cake?!
Karen is Business Manager at her local school and as well as arranging for us to sing with the children and staff, she has also provided us with free rehearsal space in the school hall on many occasions, particularly for coaching when our normal venue is unavailable. She has even attended rehearsals that she is not required to be at, just to let us into and out of the school. On top of her management team duties, Karen is perhaps best known for her starring role as the inimitable Barbara Shoppe in Vocal Dimension’s two Harmony Classic sets.
“Barbara” has reported from the all-Brit women’s Wimbledon final and also from London’s West End Theatre Awards. Karen is a consummate professional and the whole chorus feels relaxed and confident with her as our MC – she is always word perfect and bang on cue. Director, Valerie Taylor said of Karen: “We had such a lot to learn when we were putting together our first Harmony Classic set, but I never for one minute worried that Karen would not be ready or would forget her lines. She is so reliable – and fabulous to boot! – and that made all our lives so much easier.”
Karen is totally unflappable and has a calm, common sense attitude to every situation. She is a stalwart on the risers and truly deserves to be recognised for her understated but immeasurable contribution to team VDC.
Jane Smith moved to Louth in 1997, a small market town in Lincolnshire. She left behind in Bristol not only her family but also her other family of barbershoppers, both male and female. She missed singing, so started a mixed a cappella group in her village. Jane also kept up her singing and her love of 40s music by fronting a swing band in the area.
Until three years ago, she was travelling to Nottingham to get her ’fix’ of barbershop with Lace City. Family circumstances, however, meant that Jane found herself in sleepy rural Lincolnshire with no barbershop nearby, so she decided to ‘put on the show right here’ as the saying goes and start a brand new barbershop chorus in Louth – Zero Degrees Show Chorus – with help from daughter Becky (formerly of Lace City) and her husband Chris (musical director).
The inaugural meeting was in August 2014 and since then the chorus has grown to 33 members, chartering with Sweet Adelines International in March 2016 and competing in May at Gateshead the same year.
Jane has worked tirelessly and cheerfully as PRO, gig ‘fixer’, secretary, newsletter writer and generally holding the chorus together. Without Jane, the chorus would not have started and it would not have succeeded. The chorus has brought the barbershop sound to Louth and draws singers from all over the region. Jane is the face of the chorus and the first person new members speak to. She is welcoming, reassuring and has been invaluable to the chorus and the rest of the management team. She has a beautiful personality which shines out when she sings and shows off her front row moves. To show her passion for singing in harmony, she has even switched from baritone to bass, in order to help balance the chorus in the early days! That is dedication for you!!
...who should be recognised as a Woman of Note?