The Village Vocal Chords chorus (the "VVC") has recently won its 19th chorus championship at Harmony Inc's International Contest and Convention. No other chorus in the history of the organization has won as many championships. This year's contest was held in Windsor, Ontario, CA, the weekend of November 15-17, and saw 23 of the organization's top-ranked choruses competing. In addition to the chorus championship, "Spot On" took the quartet championship honors. This quartet is composed of four very talented young women, who each reside in a different state in the Midwestern area. The lead singer, Jen Wheaton, is a member of the VVCs.
This win was extra special for five of the group's members, as it was their first time competing with the barbershop chorus at the international level. These women came to the chorus with varying levels of singing experience and an assortment of backgrounds. Of the five, only two had any previous experience singing in the four-part a cappella style. Jen (lead singer in the winning quartet) had the most experience, being introduced at an early age to barbershop singing, but she joined the VVCs just this part year. Two of the other new members had only sung with church and school choirs, and one had discovered her love of singing through online karaoke.
When asked about competing in their first international contest, they were all eager to share their thoughts. As a whole, all of the women were amazed at the camaraderie across the organization, and they were excited and proud to have participated as a VVC.
Debi Besenhoffer, of Itasca, has been singing online karaoke for the past few years, but has never sung with a group. She had the most to learn about the craft, coming into the group with a very different singing background. "When I first came to the chorus I had never sung with other people before. I had no idea the chorus I stumbled upon just happened to be an international championship chorus. They were a group of the warmest, most loving women I have ever met. They took me in, let me sing with them, encouraged me, taught me, and supported me in a multitude of ways. I learned that it was safe to open my eyes when I sang, that I could trust my tones, and that it is possible for two left feet and awkward arms to master a few moves with a lot of practice! I never thought there would be a time where I would actually be up on stage performing with them, much less competing. The thrill of winning was a significant personal victory as much it was a group victory. When we perform, magic happens, and I am part of that magic now. That feels amazing."
A former singer in high school and college choirs, Emily Barajas, of Glenview, said, "Being part of the chorus is such a blessing, and being able to give our gift to all of Harmony, Inc. was an exhilarating experience. I loved it from start to finish. We brought everything we had worked so hard on, and knew our efforts paid off because we were received with two standing ovations, even before the songs were completed." Wanda Nelson, of Lombard, has a similar musical background, having sung in various choral ensembles over the years. "It is an honor and a privilege to be part of this chorus of dedicated women".
After taking a 30-year break from singing to pursue other interests, Kathleen Knopoff, of South Elgin, knew of the barbershop craft and the history of the chorus. When asked her impression of her first international competition as a VVC, she said, "It is truly awe-inspiring to be singing with the VVCs, to be welcomed into this great family. It's exciting and exhilarating, and I look forward to working with them, singing with them, every week. I love that everyone has the same goal. To work hard and always be better. It's fantastic to share the risers with these wonderful women and work with them to hone our skills one rehearsal at a time. Watching from the audience in past performances, I had dreamt of being part of them, and then I was able to make that dream happen. But they're just women, as excited and nervous as I was at internationals, even if they have competed and won in the past."
The Village Vocal Chords chorus is the Glen Ellyn-based chapter of Harmony, Inc., an international, nonprofit, and educational organization for women barbershop singers. They rehearse on Tuesday evenings, 7:00 pm, at the St. Thomas United Methodist Church, with members coming from all over the Chicagoland area. The chorus is always interested in expanding its membership, and welcomes women of all singing backgrounds to come visit any rehearsal.
For additional information on the chorus or to see their calendar of performances and events, visit their website, www.villagevocalchords.com.