Linda Grant DePauw was looking for a hobby. Rose Swicegood needed relief. Suzy Wishard wanted a way to raise money, and Ruby Donovan just wanted to sing.
They all got what they were looking for when they started a new women's barbershop group in Glen Burnie.
The New Spirit of Maryland held its first organizational meeting last night. The women are hoping to charter the first Harmony Inc. barbershop group in Maryland.
"I want to allow women to come and sing, become better singers and get fulfillment," Swicegood said.
"Average voices make incredible sounds when they're put together properly."
Barbershop singing began in the 1850s when men patronizing local barbershops sang popular songs a capella in four-part harmony.
In the last century and a half, it has gained popularity among women as well as men.
In Maryland, there are 11 chapters of Sweet Adeline women's choruses and 15 men's choruses affiliated with the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America.
Men's and women's groups hold local, national and international competitions, as well as regular shows and charity performances. They're always hoping to get that elusive "fifth voice," an undertone or overtone produced when the other four voices are perfectly in tune.
"When you lock that ring, isn't it just wonderful?" Wishard mused with her friends. "It gives you chills."
A way to relax
Wishard and the others are former members of local Sweet Adelines choruses who wanted a group with a different tone; a little less competitive. Although the new chorus likely will compete at local levels, the women want to focus on the singing and fellowship.
"All my life I've been serious," said DePauw, a retired professor at George Washington University. "My background is in military history. When you study war for a long time, you don't need more competition.
"I like people together in harmony, and competing is not the way to get harmony to me."
Swicegood started in barbershop singing about six years ago as a relief from caring for her autistic son, 12-year-old Daniel.
"After rehearsal, I would feel like a new person," she said. "It saved my marriage. It was for me. I needed this."
But the pressure to compete and the fees involved in the other choruses made singing less of a hobby and more of a task than Swicegood could bear. When she sought to form a new group, she found all of Harmony's chapters support the Autism Society of America.
Like minds meet
It seemed a clear calling for her and Wishard, a professional fund-raiser. Swicegood said one of the reasons she joined the group was to stretch her talents as a singer and to raise money for the autism group.
"I'd like to do a few performances, and I'd like to do one major fund-raiser a year," Wishard said. "Our focus is on raising money for the autism society."
The group is looking for a director and new members. They need 18 women to charter a chorus.
"That single voice makes the difference between a good chorus and a great chorus," Swicegood said. "It's a great feeling of belonging that your voice matters."
For information on New Spirit of Maryland, call Rose Swicegood at 410-761-3931.
Pub Date: 1/28/99