Friday, May 23, 2014

2nd session of Singing School continues successfully

Last night, we experienced another wonderful installment of our singing school - nine guests, several of whom returned from last week. And one guest from last week was out of town this week, so hopefully, she'll return next Thursday!

It's exciting to have them not only in the lessons, but also on the risers to sing with us. These are some really good singers!  So glad to have ALL of them visit with us. Here's another invitation for each and every one of them to come back next week.

And if YOU'RE reading this and are thinking about joining us, please do.  The singing school will last through June 19, Thursdays from 6-7:30 (or so) p.m. in the fellowship hall of the Presbyterian Church of Ruston, 212 N. Bonner.  It's free and is open to women of all ages and all voice ranges.

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 2nd-place win: The future's so bright, we gotta wear shades!

Our formal contest shot right before we went on stage.
Piney Hills Harmony Chorus left its musical mark on Houston this spring during its first competition in Sweet Adelines International's Region 10, bringing home second place in its division and sixth place overall.

Formerly, the chorus was in another region that included the Dallas area plus Arkansas, Oklahoma and southwest Missouri. The new region stretches from El Paso, Texas, to Alabama.

"I'm just so proud of the ladies and the work they have done," director Sheila Nugent, of Ruston, said. "They tirelessly honed their skills to prepare for this competition, and it's paid off."

With 27 members on stage, Piney Hills Harmony competed in the small-chorus division. Overall, 17 choruses performed.

"It's a wonderful feeling to go to a place where we've never competed before and see that all our hard work has boosted us into the rankings of the new region," Nugent said.

Sweet Adelines' competition emphasize the subtleties of the four-part a cappella art form, including dynamics, synchronization of phrases and choreography. Piney Hills Harmony's score of 508 was the highest the chorus has ever achieved, Nugent said – one point above when the chorus earlier claimed first-place gold-medal status.

For some members, the whole experience was rather surreal.

Cindy Dean, of Farmerville, said, "For me, it still feels like a dream. I wore my medal to school today (the first Monday after competition). My first-graders all had to touch it. I guess, after all, it's real."

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Several of the members joked that they wanted to sleep with their medals – and one of them actually did.

Cheryl Roach, of Monroe, explained: "Exhausted Saturday evening after a thrilling and victorious day, I crashed for the night and awoke surprised the next morning to find my medal still around my neck."

This year's competitors included the largest group of new members since the early '90s.

Krisi Key, of Calhoun, said, "My first year in Sweet Adelines has been absolutely amazing. To win second place in our region with Piney Hills Harmony was the icing on my cake. This organization has the nicest people who are immediate family and would literally give you the shirts off their backs, as one quartet member from another chorus had to hunt her jacket down that weekend after loaning it to someone else. I can't wait for upcoming shows and the race to first place for next year's competition."

Sue Wheeler, of Famerville, was another 2014 "rookie," as new members are known until their first competition is under their belts. Her recollection of the contest performance?

"After working for weeks preparing, that walk onto the stage and the performance of our two competition songs just flew by like it never happened. I actually thought, 'What just happened?!?'

"I kept thinking how our team supported each other and, sure, we wanted to win or place. But, honestly, what mattered most to me is that – in our chorus – I have gotten to know and have as friends the greatest group of ladies ever. This – and just being a part of the total experience – was worth every minute that we have devoted to this effort. Are we proud of ourselves, each other and our medal? Absolutely."

"The Future's So Bright, We Gotta Wear Shades" - and our medals!
At the first regular rehearsal after contest, the chorus celebrated with what it termed Heavy Metal Night. Any member with a Sweet Adelines medal was encouraged to wear it – including this year's second place; the previous first-place gold medal; international second-place medals won while performing with Top of the Rock Chorus of Little Rock, Ark.; third-place and most-improved ribbons; and any others as well.

As that day approached, Nugent said, "We'll watch the contest video, look over the score sheets from the judges, and make plans on how to improve our scores even more next year."

Monday, May 05, 2014

Chorus to offer singing school

Piney Hills Harmony Chorus of Sweet Adelines will offer a free singing school for area women every Thursday for six weeks, beginning May 15.

"When I joined this group 11 years ago, I had sung all my life, but I still have learned so many new things this past decade," Director Sheila Nugent said. "I'm grateful for that, as are all our members. We're having this singing school as a community service to give back to the region."

Sessions will include instruction on vocal placement, expressiveness, dynamics, breath control, resonance, vowels and other useful topics for singers. Because the class is conducted in a group setting, Nugent characterizes the approach as non-intimidating. Women of all ages and with all voice ranges are welcome; the ability to read music is not required.

In addition to learning various techniques to improve their singing, participants will have a chance to learn – right along with the chorus – a cappella versions of "Life Is a Highway," "Bless This House," "Lazy Day" and "God Bless the USA."

Nugent, a certified director of Sweet Adelines International, will teach the lessons from 6-7:30 p.m. each Thursday beginning May 15 and running through June 19 in the fellowship hall of the Presbyterian Church of Ruston, 212 N. Bonner. This spring, Nugent led Piney Hills Harmony to a second-place win in its division at Sweet Adelines regional competition in Houston.

Participants can attend any or all of the sessions free of charge.

More information can be found at or by calling Nugent at (318) 237-3331.

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