What is membership all about?
Chapter member participation is very easy. You only need to do what you love – sing! The most important requirement we have is that you are at every rehearsal. We understand that situations come along that prevent you from joining us on Tuesday rehearsal nights, but we ask that you let us know by contacting the directors and your section leader. We strive to continually improve the level of our singing and having all members at rehearsal has full impact on our sound. We ask that members follow these guidelines which we have adopted for our own personal growth and success:
- Rehearse with us
- Rehearse at home
- Take care of yourself
- Ask for help when you need it
- Be an active singing member
- Be an active member in the various roles and committees that support our organization
If you have hidden talents – or not so hidden talents – that you would like to share with the chapter, don’t hesitate to let us know what you would like to do. We enjoy giving our time and talent to a hobby that gives back so much to us, and we know that together we can do things that many of us could not do by ourselves.
How much time does this hobby take?
Many chapter members find the hobby so enjoyable that they attend many extra events and become involved in other related singing opportunities, for example, singing in a quartet. However, many other members make the time for this hobby by balancing it with their busy lives on a more limited basis. Because everyone learns at a different pace it is difficult to provide an accurate estimate of time associated with the chapter. The following will help you consider the types and possible time frames of key activities:
- Tuesday rehearsal: 2.5 hours/week
- Performance review and practice at home: 1 -2 hours/week
- Contests/Excellence Training Weekend: 2 – 3 weekends/year
- Extra rehearsals/coaching: 2 – 4 times/year
- Committee participation – varies depending on committee and role
How much does this hobby cost?
We are a non-profit organization and support ourselves through dues and fundraising. Our funds pay for such items as our membership dues to Harmony, Inc. and for other expenses associated with our hobby, such as rental of rehearsal space, director payment, coaches, legal purchase of music and learning materials, costumes, etc. An initial membership fee of $75 ($56.25 for women 25 and under) is required that will be applied to the first three months of dues. A costume fee of $27 is also required with your membership application. Should you leave the group, these fees are non-refundable. Support for new members is important, but it can be costly both in terms of time and money. New members demonstrate their commitment to the group by paying for three months of membership dues and contributing to costume fees up-front. Our dues are $25 per month ($300 annually) for adult members, and $18.75 per month ($225 annually) for youth members (those women who are 25 or younger). Dues must be current for members to be considered active and able to participate in performances.
Payments for costumes, which are owned by the chapter and must be properly cared for, are the joint responsibility of the chapter and members. In addition to the initial costume fee, other costume purchases that should be made following acceptance as a member are: a chapter shirt (estimated at $50) and approved stage shoes. Additional costume fees could be required later, typically following a vote by membership to acquire a new costume and specifying payment responsibility. The costume committee can support new members in identifying and/or providing costumes and stage makeup. The costume committee notifies chapter members prior to each performance with the details of costume requirements. Having a uniform or consistent look complements our vocal sound and is a part of each singing performance.
The costs associated with other annual events can vary. Typical annual events with estimated costs are:
- Area Conventions (frequently located within driving distance, occurs once a year in the spring). Costs include an All-Events Pass (estimated at $110); optional photos (estimated at $15); travel/airfare; lodging (sharing rooms can reduce costs; members attend from one to three nights); food.
- International Conventions (occurs once a year in the fall). Costs include an All-Events Pass (estimated at $110); optional photos (estimated at $15); travel/airfare; lodging (sharing rooms can reduce costs; members attend from one to four nights); food.
- Retreat: Annual costs estimated at $150.
Some of our fundraisers are specifically targeted to help individuals with educational expenses. We have established an Angel Fund to give financial help to members who may otherwise be unable to attend conventions, educational or other events. This program relies on voluntary member contributions. The President and Treasurer are available to discuss potential need and grant awards on a confidential basis – we all have difficulties now and then, and it is important to us that we do what can to provide support to our membership during difficult times that will allow all our members to sing with us. We practice together not only to improve our individual musical skills but to listen and unify our sound. Rehearsal time together is very important, and showcasing our best performance will involve our full membership. We miss you when you are not there!
What is the audition process like, and when can I do it?
Auditions may be scheduled before, during or after a regular rehearsal. The process is as follows:
Part One: The Assessment Portion. Prospective members should attend several rehearsals, so they have a good sense that this is a compatible group and style of singing for them, and to allow the existing members some time to get to know them. Within four weeks of attending rehearsals, a prospective member will schedule Part One of the audition procedure. The assessment is a one-on-one session with one of the Directors or their designee to assess your musical ability and musical aptitude in the following ways:
- Discussion of your musical background and experience so the directors can understand your musical context, whatever it may be
- Matching pitch of single notes and note sequences to gauge your “ear”
- Singing a simple song to demonstrate your ability to keep pitch
- Demonstrating your ability to harmonize
- Performing a simple sway movement and rhythm exercise as an indication of future aptitude for presentation moves
You will not be told at the end of the audition how you did but will be informed shortly thereafter – we find that helps keep the process more private. If you do not pass the assessment the first time, you will be given feedback and support, so you can audition again within one month from the date your assessment took place.
Part Two: The Quartet Portion. Within one month from when you pass the Assessment, you should schedule Part Two. In fact, this is so much fun there is no reason not to begin working on this much earlier! For this portion of the audition, you will learn and memorize a chorus song and sing it in a quartet setting in front of the Directors and Music Team members. We are very supportive in listening to first-time quarteters and know this can feel a little scary. Some of our most competent members were nervous when they did this part of the assessment. Fear not! It is not important to be perfect. What is important is to demonstrate your vocal quality and your ability to keep (or recover) your part while the other parts are singing around you. When you are ready to practice this, we will be happy to identify chapter members who can practice and sing with you.
You will be advised of the results soon after completing the audition. If you do not pass the audition the first time, you can try again. You should schedule your next attempt within a month.
Once you have passed both portions of the audition, you are eligible to apply for membership. You can then complete the membership application and submit the application plus application fee for review by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors considers factors beyond musical ability and will typically discuss and vote on your application at their next regularly scheduled meeting (held once each month). We are eager to continue to add members to our chapter who can work with us towards all of the goals of New England Voices in Harmony.
How many performances are there in a year?
We look for opportunities to perform so we can share our love of music with others. Frequently, performances do not involve the full chorus. For example, a performance at a nursing home may be more suited to what we call a “very large quartet” and also known as a “VLQ,” basically a smaller group that is still vocally balanced by parts. When performance opportunities arise, the membership is asked about availability and individuals are encouraged, if possible, to sing. Rarely do we have too many singers for any given performance. If this situation occurs, the director selects the singers needed for a balance of the four parts.
Based upon availability of appropriate members, the performance opportunity will be accepted or not. Once a member commits to a performance and is selected to sing, they are expected to be there – the balance of the sound and quality of singing are counting on each person to do their part! Although performances vary widely from year to year, the holiday season tends to be the busiest, with five – 12 performances. Getting into the holiday spirit is so much fun to share with others! During the rest of the year, the number of performances can range from three to six. Some years we will plan a show as a venue for the chorus and chapter quartets to perform. Shows and paid performances also help us raise money for chapter expenses.
What are the contests about, and am I expected to attend?
The chorus normally competes in contests twice a year. The first is an Area Convention and Contest (AC&C) in the spring. We are part of Harmony, Inc.’s Area 2 (which includes all six New England states and part of the province of Quebec, Canada). At AC&C, both choruses and quartets are evaluated in three judging categories. The highest scorers are qualified to compete at the International contest. Our scores also allow us to understand how our skills are improving, and where we may want to focus more work. At AC&C we have the opportunity to hear directly from judges in each category in an evaluation session, which helps translate our scores into tangible opportunities for improvement. In addition to competing, AC&C provides an opportunity for classes about the barbershop craft and for socializing with our sisters in Harmony.
The international contest (known as International Contest & Convention, or IC&C) is in November and is held at a convention site in the U.S. or Canada. In addition to the activities held at AC&C, IC&C includes Harmony, Inc.’s annual meeting and associated events. Winners of the quartet contest are crowned as Harmony Queens (and we are thrilled that we have Queens in our chapter!), and medals are awarded to the top five quartets. The top-scoring five choruses are also awarded medals. We have been proud to have earned International medals every year in which we have competed since 2006, and particularly honored to have been named the International Championship Chorus in 2014. We are eager to continue improving our performances and look forward to your participation in achieving our goals!
Although not every member is able to come to every contest, we sing our best when all our members are present and adding their talents to our sound and sense of “oneness.” Members should attend, unless extenuating circumstances prevent it. Travel, lodging and meal expenses are the responsibility of the individual member. Hotel costs can often be shared with roommates (anywhere from two to four members share to reduce costs).
Why is the organization called a “chapter” and not a “chorus”?
New England Voices in Harmony is organized as a chartered member of Harmony, Inc., an international, non-profit educational and singing organization for women. We were founded in January 2000, and officially chartered with Harmony, Inc. in April 2001. We are a chorus, but are also much more than a chorus, because we strive to actively share our love and knowledge of a cappella barbershop harmony in order to keep this singing heritage vibrant and alive. Our chapter is part of a network of similar groups, also chartered members of Harmony, Inc., located throughout the United States and Canada. Harmony, Inc. relies on democratic principles to provide an organizational framework that promotes continued education and assessment to increase member skills and fosters the joy of a shared love of music.
How is the chapter organized?
Each chapter of Harmony, Inc. is run through the active participation and votes of its members. Officers are voted in at the beginning of each fiscal year, as are other members that form a Board of Directors that is responsible for chapter leadership. Musical leadership is provided by the Directors and the Music Team (typically including the directors, leaders from each voice section, presentation and music). Various committees are also appointed to help keep various aspects of the chapter’s life running smoothly. Although new members are not expected to actively participate in this way right away, please consider where your time and talents can best benefit our organization!