The Grand Rapids Sweet Adeline’s (GRSA) chorus is headed to New Orleans in 2019 for the Sweet Adeline’s International chorus competition after taking home first place in the mid-size chorus category at the Sweet Adeline’s Regional 17 competition held in Cleveland last month.
GRSA is an entity of Sweet Adeline’s International, which is a “worldwide organization of women singers committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education and performances.”
The Grand Rapids group has been around for 65 years and practices every Monday with the exception of federal holidays. Its members also perform monthly at senior citizen centers, veteran’s homes, festivals and other locations across the community. Its members compete as a chorus as well as in quartets at the regional competition each year.
Colleen Pierson, chorus member and public relations liaison, said the New Orleans international competition isn’t the first international competition for the Sweet Adeline’s. They most recently competed last year at the competition in Las Vegas.
“It was in October,” she said. “What a thrill it was to compete on the same stage that Justin Timberlake, Whitney Houston and so many others have performed on.”
Pierson said to compete at the international level, groups must win first at regionals. Choruses are evaluated by three judges on sound, showmanship and expression.
The Sweet Adeline’s competed against a five-state region to take home first place this year.
“I felt pure joy when they announced our name as the contest winners, said Denise Van Dyken, master director of the group.
After regional competition, the group is given a full year to learn two new songs in preparation for the international competition.
“We compete yearly in Region 17 except when we win,” Pierson explained. “After the win the following year we are the hostesses and perform for evaluation at the regional competition.”
The Sweet Adeline’s chorus consists of 60 members aged 21 and up. Not all of its members reside in Grand Rapids.
Beverly Noirot, 85, drives three hours every Monday from Gaylord, Michigan to practice with the group at its rehearsal facility in Kentwood, at 1800 44th Street SE. It’s her 33rd year with the group. “I love to sing with the best,” she explained.
Beth Herrington has sung with the group for 42 years. “I have so many lifelong friends and it is like having 65 sisters. The challenging music and friendships are what keep me performing.”
In total, the Sweet Adeline’s have been competing both regionally and internationally since the chorus’ beginning 65 years ago. The chorus has accumulated numerous second place regional designations as well as six first-place medals and has appeared on the Sweet Adeline’s International competition stage six times as well as having traveled worldwide to share their musical gifts.
“We have had the thrill of singing in Washington D.C., to help with the inauguration of the World War II memorial. And we have been privileged to be able to sing in other countries, like Italy, Germany, Russia, and Paris,” said Diane Thompson, management team coordinator.
Upcoming events include a performance at Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts on the Calder Stage from 4:15 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, a performance at Fifth Third Ballpark Whitecaps game on Sept. 2, and the fall show at Grandville High School on Sept. 8.
Women interested in joining the Sweet Adeline’s are invited to attend a ladies night event on June 18 at 7 p.m. at the group’s rehearsal space, 1800 44th Street SE.
*Photos courtesy of Grand Rapids Sweet Adeline’s