Last weekend was auspicious for New Spirit of Maryland -- Glen Burnie's barbershop chorus of 20 women.
A year ago, they were just six women who wanted to harmonize. By March, they had grown to 14.
On Saturday, in ceremonies at Glen Burnie United Methodist Church, the group celebrated its first birthday by becoming the first Harmony Inc. affiliate to be chartered in Maryland and the first Harmony Inc. affiliate to be chartered in 2000.
Harmony Inc. is an international organization of female barbershop singers. It was founded in 1959 and has more than 2,500 members. Harmony Inc. supports volunteerism and community service, as well as "harmony in voices and in hearts."
Beverly Jackson, Harmony's international president, came from her home in Toronto to officiate at the charter ceremony and the installation of officers. She was joined by Marjory Gillis, who attended the ceremony as a representative from Plymouth, Mass.
As part of the ceremony, Jackson read the organization's creed to New Spirit members. All 20 women received their pins and signed the charter.
The group's new president, Linda Grant DePauw, and the other members of the first board were introduced to those who packed the room, mainly family members and friends, plus a contingent from Sons of the Severn -- a group that has supported New Spirit since its earliest concerts. Several dignitaries also came to offer citations and congratulations recognizing New Spirit's s love of singing, the happiness they bring to the area, and their spirit of volunteerism.
The group included state Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., Dels. Mary Ann Love, John R. Leopold and Theodore J. Sophocleus, and County Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. County Executive Janet S. Owens, whose husband is recuperating from knee surgery, was represented by Cecilia Fabula, who read Owens' citation. Klosterman said the county appreciates the group's dedication to community service and the happiness their singing brings.
DePauw read a proclamation from Gov. Parris N. Glendening welcoming the group to the state's arts scene.
Director Neal Ellis was introduced to the audience. Involved in barbershop singing for the past 20 years, Ellis has been New Spirit's director since June. The newly chartered New Spirit of Maryland treated the audience to a medley of songs that showed the group's versatility -- from "Back in Dixie" and "My Hometown" to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
Referring to the group's commitment to volunteerism, Rose Swicegood, second vice president and membership chairwoman, said the group supports the Autism Fair and the Autism Society of America, a designated charity of Harmony Inc.
The group donates 10 percent of all funds raised to Ruth Parker Eason Special School.
Swicegood also extended an invitation to all women who like to sing. Singers need not have exceptional voices, she said, adding that "average voices make an incredible sound when they're put together properly."
New Spirit performs at 7: 30 p.m. Wednesdays at Glen Burnie United Methodist Church.